With COVID case counts rising, county officials discourage trick-or-treating this year

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters speak via Zoom Tuesday.

“I’m sick of it, you’re sick of it; we’re all sick of it.” That’s how Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers kicked off this week’s COVID-19 briefing.

Speaking to the media Tuesday, Somers offered some stark comparisons. The U.S., he said, is losing 700 or more people every day. Every three days in this country, more people die of COVID than those killed in the Titanic disaster. Every five days, he added, the U.S. loses more people than were lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Covering topics ranging from soaring case rates, to Halloween worries, to some church groups resisting health guidelines, to more people relaxing their personal protections, Somers said the briefing included “a bit of unwelcome news today.”

Let’s start with Halloween. No “bones” about it, County Health Officer Chris Spitters was blunt: “I’m discouraging trick or treating,” said the doctor. “It would be irresponsible for me to say otherwise; I’d keep your kids at home.” Not what parents and kids want to hear, but both Spitters and Somers said giving up some fun now could help decrease new coronavirus cases.

The county’s rate of new cases has jumped. It now sits at 101 per 100,000 residents; more than twice as high as the rate just a month ago. In mid-September, that rate was 42 new cases per 100,000. The new case rate is higher than at any time since mid-March.

As the county heads into its third spike in coronavirus cases, Somers and Spitters said that two-thirds of all new cases have hit people between the ages of 20-49. Yet, for those age groups generally COVID is less serious and has a lower rate of death.

Both officials said that young and middle-age adults are key to stopping the spread; that they must focus on reducing exposure and transmission. But nationwide there has been pushback from the same groups; some arguing that they should be able to gather and attend social and sports events since they are less at risk of serious infection.

Somers had a reply to that: 20- to 49-year-olds may not be as sick or dying as often, but “none of us live in bubbles, we’re affected by others and we affect them.” Those age groups are still carriers, he added, and can infect the rest of us. Spitters said there is growing evidence that even two to three months after younger people recover, there are residual impacts on productivity and health. We should, he added, “think of ourselves as a community and focus on that.”

Here are the total coronavirus case numbers since January for our five-city region, according to the Snohomish Health District:

  • Lynnwood – 1,403
  • Edmonds – 676
  • Mountlake Terrace – 231
  • Brier – 38
  • Woodway – 18

This health district graph shows the county coronavirus ‘hot spots’, which cover most of the South County.

Snohomish County COVID-19 “hot spots” January-October 2020.

Somers said we all live in moderate- to high-risk areas; ”there’s no part of the county that is immune to this.” South County, with the highest population, accounts for the most deaths as well.

Hospitalization numbers continue to rise, from just under 20 to over 30 now. While health officials say the county has at least 800 critical care beds, they warn that the trajectory of new hospitalizations could put stress on those facilities within a few weeks. “If left unmitigated,” said Spitters, “we could end up where we were last March.”

Health workers are also having “… considerable difficulty with faith-based groups that are way outside the gathering numbers permitted,” said Spitters.

His staff, he said, is not seeing widespread resistance, but some faith groups are holding larger services than permitted and are making it hard for health staff to trace outbreak contacts. And, when those groups are warned to comply, the county “is not seeing too much change,” he adds.

Is it time to impose tougher regulations again? No, say both officials. “Family gatherings are extremely difficult if not impossible to control in our society,” said Somers. Spitters agreed but said people must redouble their masking, distancing and precautions “to try to bend the curve and not have to resort to blunt instruments to crack down. Let’s do what we can with what’s in our hands.”

You can watch the complete briefing here.

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. Somers and Spitters should be thrown out of office for promoting this ongoing debacle that is ruining vastly more lives than the C-19. Less than 1,500 “cases” since last January and they are not even quoting the death count because it is small and probably inaccurate because hospitals get a bonus check for every covid related death reported. If you want to get back to “normalcy” then end this farce and demand this state open back up. If the hospitals have 800 beds empty they are going broke. Are all of you people so afraid that you will obey, obey, obey ? Do you not find it interesting that no one has died from “old age” in America since march? BTW: woke masks don’t block anything except rational thought.

  2. With all due respect, even if these two people were thrown out of office immediately and the state was re-opened by some sort of decree from on high, I still wouldn’t modify my anti-covid behavior. I reserve the “right” TO wear a mask in public, NOT answer my door for kids begging for candy, and NOT to frequent bars and restaurants where any air born germ or virus spreads like wildfire. And, no, I’m not willing to risk my life to save the economy. The economy is pretty useless to those who don’t survive from catching this plague, like my good friend John Reed (an elderly person with underlying conditions who didn’t die from “old age.”)

  3. Patient in Astrazenica CV-19 trial dies.

    If the vaccine is not more safe than therapeutic options, if a vaccine is not going to be available within the next 6 months or so, then increased case counts is GOOD thing because we are doing herd immunity whether we like it or not. Getting infected now saves more lives later.

  4. With all due respect Mr. Wright, if it were not for your fellow citizens willing to risk their lives for the economy , you would already be dead from starvation or the dystopian breakdown of civil society once the food supply is interrupted. Next time you go to QFC for groceries, thank the people working there who are apparently made of stouter stuff.

    1. How does advocating public officials being arbitraily thrown out of public office equate to promoting civil society? I notice the workers at QFC are wearing masks too, and I appreciate that when I go there. You will notice I comment on peoples ideas not the people personally. I like to think I learned my lesson on doing that and have publically apologized for doing so. I think my “stuff” is just as good as yours. Thanks.

      1. The public officials predicted 2+ Million lives lost in the US alone. At least replace the public officials when they are wrong. Which is it? – did Donald Trump kill 200k people or save 1.8 million?

        1. All this taking statistics out of context and accusing public officials of killing people or the economy is very misleading. First, Donald Trump hasn’t “killed” anybody. The virus is what has “killed” people. Too much hyperbole from both sides here. Accusing people of ineptness is one thing, but accusing them of “killing” people is a bridge too far.

          As to the statistics, I think the 2+ million dead was the estimate for doing essentially nothing and letting herd immunity occur over time. That time could take as long as three years in theory. A viable vaccine is sought to speed up the herd immunity process and hopefully prevent as much death as possible among the immune system challenged population. The mask and distancing thing is to try to buy time and stop the spread as much as possible for now; while keeping the pressure off our emergency personnel as much as possible.

          As to the idea that masks do nothing to help prevent or slow disease, that is just someone’s theory. Doctors and nurses don’t wear masks in the operating room because they don’t want to see each other’s faces. They do it to prevent as much human to human infection as possible. If cloth masks do nothing else; they remind people to keep a safe distance from each other as much as possible, and there is quite a bit of evidence that they keep some large airborne virus clusters at least damped down in our shared air spaces.

        2. Clinton, you’re making a good point about statistics and semantics. It’s worth asking, what good is a model that fails to account for how things change in response to inputs? Sweden, for example, said they tripled their hospital beds. Why didn’t the model predict that?

          Making these assumptions, I can make a pretty logical statement.
          1) People who are infected become immunized. Inoculation isn’t the only means to be immune.
          2) So few people who actually get CV-19 need hospitalization.
          3) Being infected with CV-19 is LESS symptomatic on the general population than the seasonal flu is.
          4) The masks and reverse quarantine approach is failing everywhere to curb infections regardless.

          Let’s sequester the elderly (nobody seems to oppose that) and open up everywhere else as a means to spread the virus and achieve herd immunity. Why try to achieve herd immunity artificially when it’s happening naturally regardless?

    2. Mr. Demme.

      I just got back from the local QFC. Everybody there wears a mask (staff and customers), and everybody has to observe “social distancing” from each other (they even have stickers on the floors, and one-way aisles to help people with that). I didn’t see a single employee or customer complaining about having to do it – it’s really no biggie, and it has nothing to do with the stiffness of anyone’s spine.

      If everyone had been doing that the past 6 months we would be coming out of this thing, not spinning our wheels with it.

  5. I wear a mask. I drive on the right side of the road, maintain social distancing, don’t tailgate, pay for garbage pick up, recycle, do things that make it possible to live with all others in our tightly packed communities. You’re welcome!

  6. I cannot wait to see driving made illegal when we start measuring car accident fatalities in units of 9/11s.

    1. Well Kashf, something like that already happened. Some people decided that the carnage on our roads was unacceptably (and unnecessarily) high, and so that’s why you now have to wear a seat belt, and why you have to strap your young child into a car seat in the back – those measures were mandated in order to lower the vehicular death rate, and now driving without compliance has been made illegal.

      Ironically, some people at one time whined about having to wear seat belts just as some whine today about being told to wear a mask …

      1. Wearing a seat belt doesn’t adversely negatively effect anyone life. Telling people to live in social isolation, preventing people from getting an education, and forcing anyone not privileged enough to work a white collar office job into unemployment is not remotely comparable to seatbelts.

  7. Part of the article was about “tricks” or “treats” I only find one treat in all of this. Thanks Susan!

  8. The person that died in the Vaccine trial was a physician in his 20s who had significant exposure to the coronavirus. He was a volunteer in a study of the vaccine. It is not known if he had the vaccine or the placebo. One cannot assume that the vaccine is not safe based on this tragic death. But it is what phase three trials are about, to find out if it is safe, the trials must continue.

    1. Mary, one of the Hydroxychloroquine study deaths were placebo, without making an assumption. Look at the bad press that a simple, safe, effective cure got (I know the nuance that Zinc is the drug, and HCQ is just the vehicle).

      I make this prediction… The vaccine will be more unsafe than getting CV-19 and taking therapeutic treatments. Maybe there’s a debate to be had where that prediction is only true for general populous, and maybe elderly people are better off getting vaccinated.

  9. Regarding Matt’s “assumptions” above, they are just that __ assumptions and not necessarily accurate. For example we do not yet know if you are immune after contraction or how long immunity might last if you are immune. The impact on emergency hospitalization isn’t significant in terms of percentage of those infected, the impact is significant in terms of how the hospitalizations clog up the emergency services function and exhaust our emergency personnel. The last assumption is totally untrue. We know the infection spreads rapidly everywhere you have large gatherings of people unmasked and not social distancing and does not spread where people mask up and stay away from each other as much as possible. We now know there is very little spread off of surfaces but there is a slight possibility of this happening. I would agree that self quarantine probably works, while enforced quarantine might be problematical. Forcing quarantine on the elderly and those with underlying conditions is probably a constitutional issue or at least a basic civil rights issue.

    1. Clinton, I think your comment went under the wrong article. I agree with what you’re saying. I add though, that my assumptions about the virus and herd immunity are better than other people’s assumptions about the vaccine or the effectiveness of masks.

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