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COVID-19 cases hit record high in Whatcom County, 10 months into pandemic

After staying relatively unscathed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Whatcom County is now being hit hard.

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Whatcom County saw relatively low coronavirus cases in 2020. Now the disease has finally caught up to the region. 

Ten months into the pandemic at Bellingham's Village Books, it's the same story over and over again.

"It's like Groundhog Day," said co-owner Kelly Evert. "It really is."

COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly across the county and hitting record levels right now. The situation is so serious, officials at St. Joseph Hospital finally had to ban visitors inside the building this week.

Leaders from the Nooksack and Lummi Indian tribes have now told their people to shelter in place on the reservations.

Here are the numbers:

  • It took 156 days for the county to register its first 1,000 coronavirus cases.
  • It took 100 days for the next thousand.
  • And just 23 days to jump from 3,000 to 4,000 cases.

"It is disheartening to see the numbers right now," Evert said.

At least 80 restaurants and bars have closed since the start of the pandemic.

The numbers for the bookstore are disappointing, as well, with a COVID Christmas making its presence felt in people's pocketbooks.

"We shudder to think what it would be like, if not for the community support that we had," said co-owner Paul Hanson. "We're really saddened by the businesses that have closed during this time and look forward to seeing everybody on the other side of this tunnel."

Canadian officials now say the border will remain closed to all non-essential travel for at least another 5 weeks.

RELATED: US-Canada border closure extended to Feb. 21

Canadian tourists are a critical part of the Whatcom County economy. About 10 million visitors cross the border into Washington every year to eat and shop. Evert said their presence is painfully missed.

"You can totally feel it," she explained. "When I'm going on the freeway, it used to be really full of cars. Now there's not a lot of cars at 5 o'clock going to and from Canada."

Ten months later and feeling the deep impacts of coronavirus, Hanson hopes to turn the page on this dark chapter as quickly as possible.

"We have a fantastic staff and a fantastic community. We're all happy to be in this foxhole together," he said. "We'll get through this."