Jan. 21, 2020 was the day our world turned upside down.
It was the day that Snohomish County discovered the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. An Everett man who had traveled to Wuhan, China became America’s “patient zero.
On Tuesday — 527 days later — county leaders held their last scheduled COVID-19 briefing. “We had no idea what the future would hold for us,” County Executive Dave Somers told reporters at the start of the last weekly session.
The pandemic is not over. But the county believes it is time to wind down the briefings. In the beginning, Somers said, the goal was to protect lives, protect the most vulnerable from the virus and protect the health care system – all while doing what they could to help those that the virus devastated. It was, he added, “a challenge like no other we’ve ever faced.” Now, as the county winds down, Somers said, “the focus is on building the infrastructure for recovery.”
The numbers tell part of the story behind the decision to end weekly briefings.
COVID by the numbers
- 384 new cases were reported the week of July 4-10 — that’s up 36% from the prior week.
- But the rolling two-week average of new cases is up just slightly, to 80/100,000 people — that is the lowest case rate since last September.
- Hospitalized patients total about 20 a week.
- 875,000 vaccine doses have been administered county-wide
- 425,000 people are fully vaccinated.
- Two-thirds of the county has at least begun vaccinations.
The county says the numbers are up slightly because the heat wave brought new patients to hospitals, where some subsequently tested positive for COVID. The county also does not yet have the new data on possible exposure from the July 4th holiday.
Coronavirus variants are also still on the rise. The so-called Delta variant, which first surfaced in India, is now the most prevalent strain in the U.S. Delta, noted County Health Officer Chris Spitters, is 60% more transmissible than other variants. He said that might push us into a fifth COVID wave, which he added might be “hopefully smaller” than past flare-ups.
Vaccines will still protect most people from Delta and other variants, Spitters said, adding that we do not need a booster at this point. If the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration recommend a booster, the county will alert residents. The new variants, added Spitters, are “taking aim at those who are not vaccinated.”
Click here for the county COVID website with information on where to get vaccinated and tested.
We asked about the likelihood of school COVID outbreaks this fall, since there still is no vaccine for children 12 and younger. Spitters said that based on what happened this spring, as schools went back to modified in-class sessions, there will be schools with one or more COVID cases. Most of what the county saw in spring, he said, were small clusters of two to three cases per school, adding that school transmission is still “quite rare.”
A reporter asked if there was anything the county could have done better during the pandemic? Somers acknowledged that “you always look back and say, ‘this’ could have been better.” He admitted that the lack of clear communication with state and federal agencies sometimes made things difficult, but “not disastrous.”
Spitters said the pandemic “called for drastic measures never before imposed,” and added that officials need to “be quicker to take bold action” in the next mass emergency. While this experience is fresh, Somers added, “we’ve learned the critical nature of the prep work; if you don’t do the prep, you’re not ready when disaster strikes.”
— By Bob Throndsen