County COVID-19 briefing: Cases continue to surge, but leaders say no plan to introduce more restrictions

Dr. Chris Spitters

Article updated to reflect that there were 1,700 new cases in past week.

New COVID-19 cases in Snohomish County are now at the second-highest rate since the pandemic began, with 1,700 new cases reported in the last week. County leaders say hospitals are under “significant pressure” to handle the increase in COVID patients.

But there are no plans to bring back restrictions that were imposed to fight COVID when coronavirus first erupted. At the county’s COVID briefing, a reporter asked why the county would not make its mask-up policy stronger in light of the resurgence?  “Some will absolutely not wear masks again,” said County Executive Dave Somers, “and there is precious little we can do about that; we wouldn’t’ be able to enforce it.”

The county’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Chris Spitters, echoed Somers. “I don’t have an enforcement plan for this,” he said, adding that “we hope people feel compelled” to wear masks. It is, added Spitters “what we’re going to have to live with now.”

In what he said was a “wild estimate,” Somers figures that “maybe 70% of folks in grocery stores are wearing masks” now.

There also seems to be little appetite to re-impose tougher business restrictions to help slow the spread of the surging delta variant. Somers and Spitters agreed that is up to the state and the governor to decide; Spitters adding that “elected officials generally will lead the way on that.” Somers told reporters the county talks daily with the governor’s office about next steps. The priority, he said, is still to get more people vaccinated, but added, “the possibility of restrictions on business and things are still out there.”

Three things have converged to spark the surge in COVID. As we have reported, the delta variant is much more contagious than previous strains. Vaccines initially were about 90% effective in preventing illness; with the delta variant, that rate has dropped to 75-80% effectiveness. But Spitters said that still makes vaccines the best weapon against COVID. The doctor also reiterated that cutting back mask wearing and lack of social distancing feeds the virus surge. Add to that the 250,000 people over 12 in Snohomish County who are not vaccinated. “Some find it extremely frustrating to go back to masking,” Spitters agreed, but added “we have to do what is right, what protects the community.”

With K-12 classes beginning in a few weeks, Spitters said the state and local health department guidelines means masks for everyone — teachers and students — and keeping kids spaced apart as much as possible. But, because children under 12 still cannot be vaccinated, Spitters admitted that some will take the virus to school, not knowing they are sick yet; that we should expect some outbreaks. The focus is “to try to keep kids in school and try to keep kids and families safe,” he said.

There has also been an uptick in COVID cases in local long-term care facilities over the past month. At least 15 facilities now report one to three cases. One center had 15 cases, but that is now under control.

Governor Jay Inslee has mandated vaccinations for many state employees. What about county workers?

Somers told reporters that is still under discussion, but that no decision has been made on mandatory vaccinations. Masks are now required again indoors anywhere in county offices.

Asked about the prospect for booster shots, which is making national headlines now, Spitters said the federal government would have to extend the emergency use regulations to allow that. Somers added that, as of now, there has been “no recommendation for a booster in the United States, neither from the CDC or its advisory committee.”

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. Meanwhile “More than 8,000 Florida students isolate or quarantine because of a school district’s covid-19 spike,” (Washington Post). “Texas health officials have requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government in anticipation of a possible spike in deaths brought about by surging coronavirus numbers in the state” (ibid).

    While, in New Zealand, “New Zealand’s first coronavirus case in six months sends country into [two-day] lockdown” (ibid).

    Yet here, “Some will absolutely not wear masks again,” said County Executive Dave Somers, “and there is precious little we can do about that…”

    1. Thanks — we have corrected the article to reflect those numbers were for one week rather than two.

  2. Just breaking: Governor Abbot, of Texas, has tested positive. He has no symptoms, but is getting Regeneron. He has been vaccinated, so is probably in little danger.

    Opposition to vaccination – which is free – centers around the “experimental” nature of the vaccines, which have not been approved by the FDA.

    Regeneron, which costs thousands, is “experimental” and not approved by the FDA. It is generally reserved for emergency use only.

    Go figure.

  3. Texas is a great state, we just sent our best wishes to Governor Abbott, he hopefully will be experiencing minor Covid 19 effects, and be back at the business of representing his constituents. Texas was our first point of entry coming from Venezuela, we will always be grateful to the very kind people of Texas, freedom and bluebonnets are synonymous!
    The morgue trailers are requested due to Afghan refugees being brought into Texas, cause that is what TX does. They are AIr Conditioned and the US/FEMA has lots of them, this is a good use for trailers setting around.

      1. Refugees are being brought in all over the US at this very moment. FEMA has these trailers stored mainly in Texas, Florida, and Georgia in advance, mainly for hurricane preparedness. I have family who are FEMA advance operations management. It is very hot in the South and Texas. Temporary housing is needed as well as Covid isolation areas being set up. They are hoping the trailers will be used for “cooling” live people as opposed to a morgue. The point being FEMA is trying to cover many possible situations should they need them.
        It is a paradox for the people on the ground to be handling so much at one time, most Afghan’s have not been vaccinated. It’s no wonder WAPO did not tell the whole story, it’s what they choose to do.

  4. If merchants would require masks. If people would quit acting as if this isn’t happening, If bars and restaurants would require proof of vaccination and stick with it we wouldn’t be in this position. If the events and markets would close and or postpone…we would still have a chance. As it is, we don’t. School won’t be open long I have a feeling. Good luck everyone.

  5. So, you all know this is never going to end , right? cases, cases, cases. On and on never ending control of your lives. Businesses crippled or destroyed, jobs and livelihoods lost, kids abused by lost school time and forced wearing of “dehumanizing” face rags, government enslavement of people by paying them to stay out of the economy and destroying their work ethic, Constitutional rights set aside by unelected bureaucrats, elected ( so called) leaders who implement bureaucrats diktats rather then lead with rational thought as their guide, non stop fear porn put out by the government and media because “fear” works to control.
    Since this pandemic began almost two years ago, in this state, there have been 521,000 cases of C-19 which is 0.07 % of the population. Among those cases there have been 6,339 deaths ( from or with ) C-19 which is 0.00086 % of the population. Also 0.01% of cases were deaths meaning the risk of death was barely noticeable under rational circumstances. For this, the socio-economic structure in this state has been massively disrupted and appears to be ongoing until ? Stats noted are from state of Washington thru 8-17-2021 .

  6. F Jay Demme is right about at least one thing- Covid will never end, at least UNTIL the unvaccinated stop putting our economy and the health of the community at risk and do the right thing, roll up your sleeve and get the shot. The virus feeds off the unvaccinated, spreading and mutating as it goes. Here is a basic science fact for you to consider: a virus has one job, to live and duplicate. Relentlessly. It mutates as it flourishes, always changing just enough to evade what humans develop to stop it. But unless enough people get vaccinated to reduce the pool of host humans, the virus will go on. Polio, measles, small pox, etc., America had enormous herd immunity from these terrible illnesses because so many received the vaccines, denying the viruses a chance to inflict damage. Do your part, at least for the little children like my 18 month-old granddaughter who is vulnerable because of people who think like Mr Demme.

Comments are closed.