Soaring case numbers and sobering words tell the story of the COVID-19 outbreak now in Snohomish County. County Executive Dave Somers was blunt as he briefed reporters Tuesday: “We’ve reached a critical moment in the pandemic.” County Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters echoed that: “This is a stark picture of what could lie ahead if we don’t change course.”
The numbers tell the story of what Spitters calls an “explosive” increase in COVID-19:
- All-time high rate of new cases: 281 cases per 100,000 residents.
- A 50% increase in the rate in one week.
- Up to 250 new cases per day.
- 52 people hospitalized county-wide.
- 2 ½ times the number a few weeks ago.
Somers says in the next few weeks, “we’ll see if we suffer some severe hardships or whether, for the third time we’ll flatten the curve.” Spitters says hospitals are being stressed and emergency medic crews are seeing many more possible COVID calls.
Community and walk-in clinics are also slammed. Dr. Tom Tocher, chief medical officer at Community Health Centers of Snohomish County, says their facilities normally conduct 200 COVID tests a week with a 4% positive rate. In the last week, that has jumped to 500 tests with 8% testing positive. Community Health has seven locations, including Edmonds and Lynnwood. “We’re concerned our facilities will not be able to keep up,” says Tocher, adding that “like the wind or rain, we can’t stop it” without help.
The new restrictions issued by Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday may help “turn this massive wave around,” Spitters says, but that is only if people follow the rules. Even then, Spitters says we shouldn’t expect to see quick results, adding that it may take two to three weeks before infections ease up. For Thanksgiving, the governor urges that family gatherings be limited only to the people in your own household.
A reporter asked if the Snohomish Health District was concerned that some businesses will not comply with the restrictions. Spitters’ response: “We don’t have badges and handcuffs; if there is widespread disregard, the health district cannot overcome that.” He continued: “This is not an exercise in assigning blame; we are appealing to peoples’ good sense.”
It appears that schools are not fueling the county COVID increase. Half a dozen schools have reported at least one case, but Spitters says those appear to be clusters, not outbreaks. He says districts have been able to contain them with the precautions already in place. However, the Monroe District does report 39 students and three staff are in quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID. Spitters would not say which Monroe school was involved.
The bottom line from the briefing came from Spitters. He cited a new motto on the health district website for Thanksgiving this year: “Give Thanks; not COVID.”
— By Bob Throndsen