Snohomish County health officer expresses ‘cautious optimism’ regarding latest COVID-19 data

Dr. Chris Spitters

There is some welcome news for Snohomish County in the COVID-19 pandemic battle. Dr. Chris Spitters, the county’s chief health officer, noted that the county was the first in the nation to report a COVID-19 case on Jan. 21, and that now “it is likely that if all goes well, the county may be one of the first to emerge at the other end…” of the pandemic.

He calls this “cautious optimism” and “somewhat reassuring.”

In an April 7 briefing, Spitters reported that data shows the county reaching its peak of active COVID cases two to three weeks ago, and the numbers are slowly decreasing. He added that hospital stays are “remaining steady” at about 90 patients countywide; and that hospitals are “stretched but not fractured” by the current caseload. Spitters added that there were several times last week in which 100-plus new cases a day were reported. Over the weekend, that dropped to 60 a day and is declining again.

However, Spitters had a warning. “We cannot risk the good work and sacrifices that we have made up to this point,” he said. It is, he added, “like being 10 points ahead in the third quarter of the game; things are looking good, but we can’t let up.” He expects citizens to continue strong personal distancing precautions throughout the spring.

The Snohomish Health District is about to publish updates “on new ways to celebrate together while staying physically apart,” he said. Spitters added there will be a new information published on the health district website by the end of this week offering guidelines and suggestions for faith-based groups, community organization and residents to assure safe social togetherness.

The county has administered nearly 1,700 COVID-19 tests (about 200 a day) at the one testing site run by the health district, in Everett. Of those tests, Spitters reports that his office has received 1,300 results, with 60 people confirmed as positive — an infection rate of about 5%.  The doctor also commended clinics and physicians countywide for their testing efforts.

Snohomish County Emergency Services Director Jason Biermann added to the briefing that communities and individuals are donating much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE).

The number of donations:

  • 1,500 pairs of eye protection gear
  • 7,500 set of goggles
  • “Several thousand” pairs of gloves
  • 2,600 protective N-95 masks
  • 2,000 surgical masks

Biermann says the county takes donations of PPE equipment at Willis Tucker Park in Everett on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

In addition, several Snohomish County businesses with equipment and 3-D printers have offered their services to create personal protective equipment. The County Emergency Management office is coordinating that effort and is looking for other local firms with 3-D printing capability.

The bottom line: The county’s early response puts it “…out in front of the statewide model a little bit…” and that is reason for cautious optimism.

— By Bob Throndsen






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