County COVID briefing: As numbers continue to rise, return to Phase 2 likely next week

The recently rising case rates in Snohomish County have now surpassed the phase 3 threshold.

The weekly COVID media briefing from Snohomish County officials was marked by a growing concern over the county’s stubbornly rising numbers of case rates and hospitalizations, the two critical metrics used by Gov. Inslee’s office to determine which reopening phase will be operative.

On March 11 Inslee rolled out the revamped Roadmap to Recovery program, initially placing all Washington counties in Phase 3, the least restrictive category. For large counties like Snohomish (more than 50,000 residents) to remain in Phase 3, they must keep a 14-day average of new COVID cases at or below 200 per 100,000 residents, and a seven-day average of new hospitalizations per 100,000 at five or fewer. Smaller counties are subject to a slightly different set of measures as shown in the chart below.

Counties are individually evaluated every three weeks. The evaluations occur on Mondays with any phase changes taking effect on Friday. The next evaluation is scheduled for this coming Monday, May 3.

Since the initial announcement, three counties (Pierce, Cowlitz, and Whitman) have failed to hit the critical thresholds and have been rolled back to Phase 2. More information on which activities are permitted under each phase is available here.

“Our case rate numbers are definitely going the wrong direction,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Snohomish County Health Official. “As of the two weeks ending April 24, we are up to 223 new cases per 100,000 population, which is above the Phase 3 threshold of 200.”

The other area where the county is missing the mark is hospitalizations.

Snohomish County new hospitalizations now stand at 5.3 per 100,000 population, surpassing the state’s Phase 3 threshold.

“For the week ending April 24, we are up to 5.3 hospitalizations per 100,000 population, well north for the 5.0 threshold,” Spitters added. “That clicks both parameters the state uses to determine our recovery phases and makes it likely we’ll be asked to return to Phase 2.”

Other information from the press conference included the latest updates on vaccination numbers and plans to expand vaccination activity to help ensure vaccinations are available when and where they are needed.

“So far our vaccine supply has been pretty stable, with an average of 25,000 doses arriving each week,” explained Spitters. “At this rate we will likely reach saturation – 90% of all adults in Snohomish County vaccinated  – around mid-August.”

Explaining that this is still several months off, Spitters stressed that “we’re not out of the woods yet” and that residents all need to step up efforts at masking, holding small gatherings outdoors, washing hands, sanitizing surfaces and, most importantly, getting vaccinated as the pathway out of the pandemic.

County Director of Emergency Management Jason Biermann presented updates on new efforts to make vaccinations easier to get and more available.

Also present was Jason Biermann, Snohomish County Director of Emergency Management, who outlined some of the ways the county is making it easier to get vaccinated.

“We’re doing everything possible to bring vaccines closer to folks,” he said.  “We don’t want anyone to miss their shot at getting a shot.”

Part of this includes releasing appointment slots a week in advance rather than one or two days.  Appointments are also being expanded to evenings and weekends to better accommodate peoples’ individual schedules. Another innovation is what Bierman calls “second-dose catchup clinics” located at the county mass vaccination sites, which are specifically for folks having a hard time getting their second dose. Find out more and set up a second-dose appointment by calling 425-339-5278.

Another strategy explained by South County Fire Community Outreach Manager Shawneri Guzman involved going directly into clients’ homes to administer the vaccine.

South County Fire Outreach Manager Shawneri Guzman provides information on in-home vaccination efforts targeted to homebound people.

“Many homebound folks are at higher risk due to medical issues and comorbidities,” she explained.  “Also many are being cared for by family members or others who go to multiple homes and thereby increase the risk of exposure.”

So far, these teams have been able to administer 200 in-home vaccinations.

“This is astounding when you think of the logistics of doing homebound visits that include travel time, coming into a home, explaining the procedure and more,” she added.

Somers summed up the presentations with a rundown of the latest vaccination numbers and a call to continue masking and other strategies, and for county residents to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

County Executive Dave Somers gives the latest numbers on vaccine doses administered and the outlook for possibly reverting to Phase 2 reopening.

“Last week we passed an important milestone, surpassing 500,000 vaccine doses administered,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “This means about 30% of our residents over the age of 16 are vaccinated, but we still have a long way to go. Getting vaccinated is the one sure way to end the pandemic, so if you’re 16 or older please sign up and help us end the worst public health crisis we’ve experienced in the past 100 years.”

Even if the county rolls back to Phase 2, Somers vowed to continue “pushing as hard as we can” and continue vaccinating as quickly as possible.

“If you don’t like wearing masks, if you don’t like seeing businesses restricted, if you like being able to go to restaurants with your friends, get vaccinated,” he stressed. “That’s how we end this.”

County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters speaks about the declining numbers underlying the possible move back to Phase 2.

Questions from the press included reaction to the CDC’s relaxed guidelines on mask wearing, to which Spitters reiterated that while the science says fully vaccinated people can safely relax masking in certain situations – at home, outdoors and spread out – the unvaccinated need to continue masking everywhere except at home. “Especially with variants emerging, it makes sense to play it on the careful side,” he said. “If we back off, I think we’ll regret it. And bear in mind that none of these liberties apply to the unvaccinated.”

Another question asked was whether the county is seeing major outbreaks at venues like restaurants, retail sales locations and gyms, and if not, is it fair to restrict them to 25 percent capacity should we revert to Phase 2.

Spitters responded that current workplace outbreaks are roughly double what officials saw when they bottomed out in March. “We need to continue doing what works,” he said. “It’s based on science and whether it’s fair or not is not for me to judge – but it’s good public health practice.”

Another questioner brought up that the last time the state was on the verge of slipping, the governor changed how the metrics were evaluated, and asked whether this might happen again.

Somers responded that he’d be “very surprised” if a change like this is in order, pointing out that last week the governor had been asked the same question and responded that there’s no current consideration of changing any metrics.

In response to how many Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses are available in the county, both Spitters and Biermann said that there are still about 2,600 J&J doses on hand statewide, which due to the allocation formula means about 400 of these could end up in Snohomish County. These would be administered through community-based vaccination centers, and at the Ash Way and Boomtown mass vaccination sites. According to Biermann, patients are informed beforehand if they’re getting the J&J vaccine, and that so far “none have opted out.”

Other questions addressed the increase in cases among younger populations, whether mRNA vaccines are having therapeutic benefits for long-haul COVID patients, and information on the progress of clinical trials aimed at studying the efficacy of vaccination in youths 12-15 years old.

Interested persons can view the full video of this morning’s and past press briefings under the “video briefings” tab on the Snohomish Health District’s News and Briefings page.

— By Larry Vogel

31 Replies to “County COVID briefing: As numbers continue to rise, return to Phase 2 likely next week”

  1. Looking at the first graph of Rolling 2-Week Average, we should have been in Phase 3 instead of Phase 1 a year ago. Frustrating.

    Interesting that we see an increasing amount of positive cases over the last month. I’d like to see that overlayed with a graph of the number of injections per week.

    If drawing a correlation when comparing graphs is following the science for global warming, we should be able to do the same for assessing consequences of vaccinations.

  2. What’s nonsense is peoples’ whining. As with cigarette smoking, your “rights” end at your own body in your own home, not in my air space. Mask up, get your shot. Keep your spittle to yourself.

    1. The “shot” will not keep you safe. It doesn’t impart immunity. It does not prevent you from getting or spreading the virus. So by the very definition of a vaccine, it isn’t one. So what exactly do you think your shot is going to do?

  3. You nailed it Mr. Thornton. At this point in time any “thinking” person has had enough of this socio-economic devastation perpetrated upon us by a catastrophically overbearing government. What do the small businesses do if this happens ? They are barely keeping their heads above water now. This entire lockdown, mask up charade needs to stop now. As you said, states that are open are doing fine so what is going on here in Washington beyond having a mental midget with delusions of godhood for a governor? Time to wake up people and take your lives back, this is insanity.

    1. Glad you put “thinking” in quotes, thus apparently referring to people who prefer believing to thinking and science. It would be instructive to hear you debate Inslee, or perhaps Fauci, and put them in their places, which would surely easy when matched with a “mental midget” who thinks he’s God!

      Too bad people have had enough of being careful, and cautious of others’ health. Such a pity to give up, just when we seem to have turned the corner! I guess everyman IS an island, or at least some seem to think so.

    2. I just sent a requested prayer. It was from lifelong friends.. 39 year old husband and father of 5. This is I MO…he got covid..then pneumonia..then hospitalized for 3 weeks, antibiotics weren’t doing it. All his organs shut down. His heart and lungs too. By passed them,tried to get oxygen in…he should be dead in a day…so 39, healthy, thin, but many in ignorant MO dont MASK.. Now a family is destroyed. ALSO many in all the places you say are doing fine…are not doing fine at all. They get it…get real sick and hopefully survive. Many don’t but Covid isn’t listed as cause of death. Texas is bad…our refusal to just comply and instead be stubborn and selfish astounds me.
      If we don’t shape up…we will hit stage 2 again. And the way we continue to gather…in love and support the more sickness we get. Then stage 1, very quickly.

      I heard the kids practicing at night…I read all over about the younger now getting this. They are. I am fully vaccinated I have no children…but I sure hate to see any of you or your families go through what mine are now.

      1. I heard a doctor say that taking vitamin D and zinc is extremely important. The vitamin D prevents the cytokine storm. Prayers for your family.

  4. We know what doesn’t work: unmasked people, disregard for indoor venue safety, “taking back our lives” . People get sick and die? Hospitals are overwhelmed, health care workers burned out, new ​types of stands because Covid isn’t yet contained and therefore spreading faster? Words of thinking people?

    Let’s try working together with resolve, do what we can to save lives and stop the spread of new virus types. Our kids are back in school, so if not for yourselves, do it for them. Being selfish isn’t the greatest legacy to leave in look back on this time in our history.

    1. No no…to a Pandemic? Wow. If only that worked. You can’t say no…you all need to simmer down. Stay home…now. the numbers are high. And if you start breaking laws…have you heard of Marshall Law? Do you want a total lockdown like Italy? No you don’t. Trust me. Be very careful at this stage. The governor should not be in Perrinville tomorrow. It will attract more people like ambulance chasers, tornado trackers..ha. My God Edmonds wake up those brains I know you have them.

  5. It’s hard to take back your life if you’re in the hospital or dead. Our state has a much lower hospitalization and death rate than so called open states. Nobody likes restrictions but they’re saving lives. Not sure where you’re getting your vaccine information but covid vaccines offer more immunity than flu shots and other vaccines. Mr. Sanderlin is right on. If people would mask up, wash their hands, and avoid large gatherings our numbers wouldn’t be going up.

    1. 5.3 people per 100,000 needed to go to the hospital? :/ Is that a lot or not a lot?

  6. It is also difficult to deny that Edmonds has done a terrible job of containing COVID from the beginning. Not indiduals who can’t truly do much. Remember it was Fauci who told us masks for the public would be ineffective.. then yeah, they are but health care needed them. Mayor Mike was happy to shut us down and toss in the bit about firearms. Nice.
    Edmonds has become a tourist street fair, throughout this thing. And the concern has been for all those poor restaurants ( 5 or so who are owned by the Feedme group, not mom and pops by any stretch, and who were struggling before the pandemic because there are too many of them.) They do not pay their worker minimum wage, or provide benefits but Mayor Mike was giddy on his high horse dictating what large groceries must pay their union workers., exempting the delivery folks of course who do spend time in those stores too. Rick Steves wanted a festival plaza, and he got one. Preaching about the environment while waxing about his folks all getting back on planes soon.
    Last night’s comment section and finger wagging was simply amazing. We got our vaccines and it is so easy ( Arlington, boomtown and shoreline). Except for the lone voice of Kristiana Johnson, none recognized that the policies adopted by them are the problem. And continue to be so. Individuals can only do so much. The numbers were not there when Inslee moved us to phase 3 what was required. He simply changed the requirements. Nice. So, before official wag those fingers, be accountable for your failure in keeping any of us safe. NYT shows we are at very high risk today. It has for most of this. And I am a liberal.

    1. Thankyou. All you said is true. We did this to ourselves. Inslee and Nelson did and said nothing…no one sited for not complying…stuffed yourselves in restaurants for a year….and ate drank and laughed…well I tried to plead..I did stay home and cook. I did mask with no pouting when required. And where required. I didn’t have little sneak neighbors over parties…had you done this…we would be on the way to 4 instead of 1.
      Not too late.I hope. You all might want to consider it.
      And no if Inslee changes his criteria again for no scientific reason….That could possibly be considered negligence….Please just stop now…

    2. To Joe MacDonald ..I do have my facts right. Around 95% immunity with either Moderna or Pfizer. Not sure where you’re getting your “facts” but might want to try another source or two.

      1. You must be listening to the media. 95% effective at what ? Reducing your symptoms only. If that can even be proven. The scientific facts from the manufactures of all of these state “they will not impart immunity “. That means they will not prevent you from getting the virus or spreading it. It’s really that simple. They will not keep you safe. They don’t meet the medical definition or standards for a vaccine and they are still not approved by the FDA. These are the facts. They are indisputable. Messenger RNA’s have nasty side effects. That’s why they quit testing them. Once you turn them on, they can’t be turned off.

        1. “Our grandparents would be ashamed of our timidity.”

          My husband’s grandmother died in the 1918 influenza epidemic, leaving his mother without a mother and ending up in an orphanage. I think a more apt statement is “our grandparents would be ashamed of our stupidity. ” Those “grandparents” who experienced the 1918 influenza pandemic- whether they survived or were casualties- would no doubt be aghast that anyone thinks trying to control a pandemic is stupid.

        2. I’m closing the comments on this article now as a wide range of viewpoints have been represented.

  7. “Remember it was Fauci who told us masks for the public would be ineffective.”

    You mean when he said, “Americans may still need to wear face masks through 2022 to protect against the spread of the coronavirus and emerging variants”? (Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday, Feb 4, 2021)–says-americans-may-need-to-wear-masks-through-2022

    Or, “Actually, I am going to – you know, it’s very interesting. I – we have felt for some time, obviously, that the risk is minuscule if you are vaccinated and you are out there in the public on a path running…I say get vaccinated. That’s the point. I mean, if you are vaccinated, then the risk, as I mentioned, is extremely low”? (April 27, 2021)

    1. No, when early on he said it, and later walked it back.
      ‘ While Fauci, along with several other US health leaders, initially advised people not to wear masks, Fauci later said that he was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough protective equipment for health care workers. This was also early in the pandemic before public health experts fully knew how contagious the disease was and how it spread.“

  8. Before the vaccine was available this news would be something that we would have to bear, but now that the vaccine is available and there are spots available, it is important to remember that these unnecessary deaths and damage to businesses are the intentional choices of the irresponsibly unvaccinated.

    The primary vaccines are over 95% effective in preventing Coronavirus after two shots and 80% after one. Yet still some on this very site who say that the vaccine will not make a difference and will “not make you safe.” That kind of ignorance just defies logic. Of course it makes a difference, a 95% difference!

    I would have never guessed that conspiracy theorists would have been allowed to callously kill so many people in our great country. Some of the conspiracies have come straight from our foreign adversaries who would love to see people forgo the vaccine so that our country can suffer thousands of unnecessary deaths and tragic unnecessary damage to our country.

    There is something wrong if people have decided that they will forgo the vaccine to make a political point for their party, even though there is overwhelming evidence that the vaccine is safe and will save thousands of lives. If your party or other conspiracies have convinced you to ignore science and help to murder thousands of your fellow countrymen, than there is either something wrong with that party or a disfunction in your ability to rationally think.

    If you care about your family, your community, and your country, than you should get vaccinated right away. Lives are more important than conspiracies.

    1. The jab does NOT prevent coronavirus. It does not keep you from getting it nor does it prevent you from transmitting it to someone else. These are not conspiracies. These are facts. These are nothing more than genetic messenger RNA’s that are supposed to stimulate your own immune response and lesson your symptoms. That is it, period. Why do you have such a hard time understanding medical and scientific facts?

  9. On another note, this is a very good article with very informative quotes from some of the main people on the front lines. Much respect to reporter Larry Vogel and the rest of the My Edmonds News staff for keeping us so well informed.

    As dire as this situation is, we have a straightforward solution if enough people will care enough about themselves, their family, and their community to act on it and get the vaccine.

    “If you don’t like wearing masks, if you don’t like seeing businesses restricted, if you like being able to go to restaurants with your friends, get vaccinated,” [Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers] stressed. “That’s how we end this.”

    1. Yes vaccines will get the virus under Control eventually. Agreed. But they are not 100% effective, children will remain unvaccinated for a bit. But it is your choice and yours alone whether to get vaccinated. You will not know who is and isn’t. Making villains out of folks and their personal decisions is just wrong in this case. We need a high percentage of vaccinated folks and we will get there. Even with folks deciding against it, and there will always be that group. But the nonsense needs to stop. Following the science has become a mantra, not a reality. Inslee changed the metrics to allow us to remain on Phase 3. No science to it. None. And when the numbers continued increasing, well now it is down to individuals again. No. Not at all. Having a festival daily and weekly downtown makes no sense. Had we had actual leadership we might be much better off. You make your choices and I will make mine. Making anyone who chooses not to get vaccinated the villain is just wrong. And yes, I will get my shot. My choice. We will be done with this eventually. In it together has been a slogan. We have all been left to our own devices. Mass gatherings in Edmonds have been counterproductive and slowed us to getting back to normal.

      1. Choosing whether to get vanilla or chocolate ice cream is a personal choice, choosing what you want to wear is a personal choice. Spreading massively disproven conspiracy theories that have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and devastated our economy is a grave choice that affects all of us, and it borders on incitement to murder.

        Not getting a vaccine is a choice just like throwing a burning cigarette into the brush is a choice. However, it is a choice with a high possibility of lethal consequences. I am not saying that people should be forced to get the vaccine, that is a choice of social responsibility to themselves, their family, and their community that they will have to make. However, spreading knowingly false conspiracies that have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans by convincing them not to take common sense precautions is another matter.

        When a person find themselves on the same side as foreign agents actively trying to kill people in their country by using the same anti-vac arguments they are using, it should at least give them pause to consider the accuracy of their arguments.

        1. The number one requirement based on medical definition is that a vaccine will impart immunity. These don’t meet that because they don’t give you immunity against the virus nor does it keep you from spreading it. Those are facts. If I choose not to poison myself with your jab, then I am not actively trying to kill others. Even if I was “fully vaccinated” I could still pass it on to you. So stop spewing misinformation and political conspiracies and learn the facts before you criticize others with your own opinions and BS.

        2. Bill Maher is even beginning to expose who is actually spreading massively disproven theories. Link:
          The covid shots may protect the recipient from getting symptoms, but they do NOT prevent the recipient from being a positive case, going to the hospital, or spreading the virus.

          At my age, the wise choice for my personal health is to not get the shot. And you shouldn’t improperly discard burning items either.

          Apples and watermelons.

  10. “The primary vaccines are over 95% effective in preventing Coronavirus after two shots and 80% after one. Yet still some on this very site who say that the vaccine will not make a difference and will “not make you safe.” That kind of ignorance just defies logic. Of course it makes a difference, a 95% difference!”

    The numbers quoted are for prevention of symptomatic Covid, not Covid. If it truly prevented Covid then two weeks after your second shot you would be able to go back to life like it was 2019. Since the state is NOT saying you can it is dangerous to keep saying that the shot prevents Covid. An no it is not because of variants or the other 5%, it is because you can still get Covid asymptomatically and transmit it to others.

    Someone that has been vaccinated is still required to wear a mask, and in fact two masks. The whole point of the double mask policy is the CDC says single masks are for the most part not effective. How many people GOT Covid while wearing a single mask that the science already knew (there were a number of studies done from March to May of 2020) would not prevent them from getting Covid? How many people right now are wearing a single mask thinking they are safe?

    The only way to guarantee you will not get Covid is to stay a whole lot more than 6 feet (a policy based on a study that far predates Covid) away from everyone else and never be inside a room with a group of people (masked or not, vaccinated or not) for an extended period of time.

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