COVID-19 report for June 26, 2020: County concerned recent uptick might signal COVID comeback

With the latest statistics showing an increase in Snohomish County COVID-19 cases, local officials are doubling down on urging residents to wear masks, avoid crowds, and practice social distancing.

“Now is not the time to back off on these measures,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers in a Friday morning press briefing.

“The current uptick in cases that we are experiencing is concerning. As we are seeing across the country, increased activity is directly related to increased infection rates,” he continued. “To move to the next phase, we need the community’s help by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Since we’ve made so much progress, now is not the time to backslide.”

The latest charts and tables from the Snohomish County Health District and the state Department of Health illustrate these trends.

The following chart from Department of Health shows new cases per day in Snohomish County through June 24. Note the gradual increasing trend over the past two weeks, and particularly the surge over the June 19-22 period (grey bars indicate that the number for these days are still being finalized).

This is reflected in a similar chart from the Snohomish Health District, where numbers are added to the bars. While numbers had been hovering in the range of 20 or fewer new cases prior to last weekend, Friday, June 19, saw 36 new cases and Monday, June 22, a staggering 77.

A key criterion to determine readiness to move to a higher level of reopening under Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start program, the threshold number of new cases, specifically a rolling average of no more than 25 cases per 100,000 population over a 14-day period, needs to be met. Given that requirement, these numbers do not bode well for Snohomish County to move to Phase 3 anytime soon.

“I know that if we applied today, we would be denied,” County Executive Dave Somers said in a media briefing Friday.

The following chart and table from the DOH Risk Assessment dashboard show how the recent increase in cases in Snohomish County has exceeded the baseline criterion for Phase 2. Based in part on meeting this threshold earlier in the month, Snohomish County was approved to move to Phase 2 on June 5 — 21 days ago. While official speculate that this does not necessarily signal a possible rollback to Phase 1, the trend is concerning.

And although the new case number are up, interestingly the increase is not reflected in similar increases in COVID-related hospitalizations or deaths.

As illustrated in the line chart below, hospitalizations have remained relatively stable during June.

Similarly, deaths have remained relatively constant.

 

Officials speculate that this could be due to the recent higher infection rates among younger people, who do not seek hospitalization or succumb to the infection at the rates experienced in older demographics.

“Recently our new cases have been occurring in younger individuals, those in their late 30s and early 40s,” said Snohomish County Health Official Dr. Chris Spitters in Friday’s briefing to the press. “In tracing these cases and trying to identify risk factors, we find about half reported contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID, but even more concerning is an equal number of cases without an identifiable risk factor which we assign to the catchall category of community transmission — we just don’t know where the infection came from.”

Spitters went on to explain that we need to understand whether last weekend’s uptick was a “blip” or the beginning of a trend, and that this remains to be determined.

“To quote Dr. Fauci, ‘the virus will give us our timeline,’” Spitters concluded. “The fork in the road is ahead, and we’ll be watching it every day. At this juncture we don’t know which way it will go.”

Complete sets of charts, tables and numbers are available on the State Department of Health COVID Dashboard here, the State Risk Assessment Dashboard here and the Snohomish Health District COVID Case Count website here.

Breaking Update: Late Friday afternoon the Washington State Department of Health issued a news release announcing that due to technical issues, previously reported hospitalization data were short by 88 hospitalizations statewide dating as far back as March 29 — five of which were in Snohomish County. Due to scheduled server maintenance this weekend, the corrected data will not be available on the DOH Dashboard until Monday.  More information is available here.

— By Larry Vogel

10 Replies to “COVID-19 report for June 26, 2020: County concerned recent uptick might signal COVID comeback”

  1. The last few times I have not noticed the chart at the end of all the others that detailed recent cases, and deaths in Edmonds, Woodway, Lynnwood etc. That was the only chart I looked at.

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  2. I am sure I am not alone in saying how devastating it has been watching the COVID-19 #s sky rocket around the nation. It literally brings me to my knees thinking about the healthcare workers who are now facing this enormous rise which will directly affect them. They are dedicated to helping the sick – and as we have witnessed since this all began how amazing they are. To this I say. ‘Thank you’.

    My husband and I walk every day. I am deeply grateful when I see people wearing masks and keeping social distance. For me this is a powerful statement of how dedicated they are to keeping themselves and others safe. It’s like they are silently saying, ‘We are in this together, I’ve got your back’.

    I am BEGGING each person that is feeling the fatigue and asking, ‘How much longer do we have to do this’. Perhaps even wondering if it is really helping or wondering if it is really worth it. PLEASE wear a mask, please help this community to be an example of unity that changes the direction of the spread of this devastating virus. Let’s all have one another’s back. We can do this!

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  3. Going over the week I see…

    Tue15, Wed13, Thu20, Fri36, Sat8, Sun9, Mon77

    …continuing on the chart Tue13, Wed17, Thu18, is it possible that some of Monday’s large count is unreported numbers from Sat/Sun?

    Could the Monday spike be related to that large party in Stanwood over the weekend where someone was positive making the spike a hotspot not a trend?

    I guess it is also possible that with increased testing of people in general there could be some days we just happen to see more of the cases that are out there than we did when only testing people with symptoms. Did hospitalizations show a similar jump, the chart below ends before Mondays spike.

    Our 2 week average – 20, 17, 20, 15, 15, 13, 20, 36, 8, 9, 77, 13, 17, 18 = 298 / 14 = 21.3 is under the 25 per day set by the State.

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  4. Should have been 15, 20, 17, 20, 15, 13, 20, 36, 8, 9, 77, 13, 17, 18 for the same total just mistakenly shifted one of the 15 count days.

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  5. More people aren’t sick. These are not new cases. These are new tests. And the testing is flawed. The case load in the clinics and hospitals hasn’t changed.

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    1. Right Joe. The only reliable numbers are hospitalizations and deaths.
      The trouble is they are 2-5 weeks past exposure and contracting the virus.
      It’s like trying to drive using only your rear view mirror that is showing what happened 2-5 weeks ago.
      The only responsible approach as we “open up” and are exposed to more people, is to wait a month and see what the hospitalization and death rates are doing.

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        1. What is it? – Caution? Being very prudent? Acting responsibly? Exercising some self-restraint? Having regard for each other?

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        2. So we have been successful so far. Do you want to fully open up? If so, simple modeling shows that could lead to 2000+ deaths in Snohomish County, as shown below. Is that many dead acceptable to you? It isn’t to me.

          My calculations are as follows. 3400 confirmed cases in our county and 167 dead. Recent studies suggest that the actual number of infected people is 10 times the confirmed number, so 34,000. That gives a death rate of 167/34,000 or 0.5%.

          Now we need the herd immunity number for COVID-19, the percent of the population that needs to be immune (via infection or vaccine) to prevent further transmission. Googling this gives a range of values, most being around 70%, but some as high as 90% and one recently published paper in Science magazine as low as 43%. I’ll use 50%, being optimistic.

          Since we don’t have a vaccine, we would have to see 50% of the county get infected to prevent further transmission. This gives the following death toll:

          820,000 times 0.5 herd immunity times 0.005 death rate = 2050 dead

          You can tweak the numbers to be more optimistic or less, depending upon how severe you think this disease is.

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    2. There are free testing centers open to all in select locations at select times, it would be interesting to know more on the testing itself.

      For instance if we tested randomly an additional 1000 people on Monday to Wednesday at a short term location you should see an increase in numbers against when you were not doing that additional testing, it wouldn’t have to be a spike.

      We could be seeing a cluster outbreak of asymptomatics after one known positive exposes a large party or a group such as Boeing or a church.

      Right now the experts are going with a x10 factor on positives, thinking that there are 10 times the number of positives untested for every one they catch with a test. There could be some days with more generalized testing that we just happen to see more or less of what is out there.

      Take a group of 10,000 people and lets say that 1,000 of them are infected. Random testing 100 in that group will find some percentage of the infected. There could be a day when you find 70 there could be a day that you find 7 it would not change how many people are infected only how many you are seeing.

      I believe right now we are only testing about 3,000 a week in a population group of 820,000.

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