Snohomish County COVID briefing: Cases near all-time high, vaccination rate stalls

COVID is “something we are going to have to learn to live with.” But how we learn to live with it still sparks debate. That’s a key takeaway from Snohomish County’s latest COVID-19 briefing. As of this week, the state has now mandated wearing masks in all outdoor venues of 500 or more people, including festivals, fairs and sporting events, but enforcing it raises more questions.

Numbers do not always tell the story; but the county’s COVID case numbers show the coronavirus still ripping through our communities:

  • 2,062 new cases last week — near an all-time high
  • Two-week new case rate of 469 per 100,000 residents — highest rate in the pandemic
  • 109 hospitalized COVID patients
  • 20,000 COVID tests last week
  • 57% of eligible residents fully vaccinated

Data from Everett’s Providence Hospital shows that 72 of the 75 COVID-positive people admitted there in the last month were unvaccinated.

Dr. Chris Spitters

Vaccination rates have stalled, averaging 5,000-6,000 a week. At that rate, it would take almost a year to inoculate the remaining 200,000 eligible adults, Snohomish County Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters told reporters. County Executive Dave Somers had internet problems and was unable to join the Zoom briefing.

Asked what he would say if vaccination rates do continue to stagnate and people argue that COVID is just part of life, Spitters agreed that it’s not going away permanently at any time in the future. But he warned that even if COVID becomes a seasonal illness like other viruses, “it’s not going to be mild like those”; to achieve a new sense of normalcy, vaccine must be a key part of that.”

To those who have had COVID and feel they are naturally immune now and don’t want to be vaccinated, Spitters said simply “get vaccinated.” The durability of their immunity after COVID, added Spitters, seems to be limited. He pointed to what he called a clear recommendation from the CDC “to get vaccinated whether you’ve had COVID or not.” To people who contend they don’t need the vaccine if they are fit and healthy, Spitters was blunt: “Get vaccinated. I apologize for the curtness but not for the message.”

Spitters acknowledged that even some colleagues don’t think people are getting the message of how serious the situation still isl. One measure of that, he said, is that society must think about the impact we are having on the health care workforce; “the people taking care of us are tired, worn out. There’s not a ‘thank you’ sign that can do as much as getting vaccinated.”

However, when asked if Snohomish Health District staff were fully vaccinated, Spitters told reporters he did not know, that it was “kind of a personal decision,” that he thought the number of those who’ve been immunized was “kinda high.” But since the health district has more than 100 employees, it will now have to meet new federal rules that require vaccinations or weekly tests for employers with more than 100 workers.

Spitters was also quizzed on his reaction to the idea of requiring “COVID passports” to enter businesses or events. He pointed out that such passports might keep out some unvaccinated people and reduce the spread of the virus. But he pointed to the potential tough economic impact on smaller businesses that might not have enough staff to monitor that and said there is no evidence that requiring such passports would raise vaccination rates.

COVID reports on school outbreaks are now starting to trickle in. So far, so good. The county says 74 schools report one or more cases; but only five schools show two or more cases. Twelve of those new cases can be traced to student athletes. Questioned about what could trigger a return to remote learning, Spitters said there is no current state guidance on that. He said that schools should be the last to be pulled out of action and the first to be reopened. He added that there is no new information on when children under 12 might get the shots; that it might happen around the end of the year.

The Washington State Department of Health offers a Parent and Teacher toolbox to help smooth the transition back to class for all students. You can find that here.

— By Bob Throndsen


  1. Singapore, extremely vaccinated, cases double. US has half the cases as Isreal. It’s winter time people. We needed to build up natural immunity this summer. If the curve can be pushed back, we should have also pulled the curve forward by having less restrictions in the summer. Winter. We will be locked down.

    1. Matt, are you saying “natural” immunity – with more hospitalizations and deaths – is better than people getting vaccinations?

      1. Bill, your premise is false. Latest study from Israel… natural immunity is 27-times more protective against the delta variant than vaccine-therapeutic.

        Bill, something less than 2/3 and more than 1/2 of Americans already have Natural Immunity. Most of those who do not have natural immunity, I dare say are those who got vaccinated.

        1. Yep. Search the internet enough and you’re almost guaranteed to find support for your belief, no matter what it is. The most credible sources I’ve come across, both online and locally, quickly convinced me and my family to get vaccinated. Which we did, to reduce our chances of infection or death.
          Remember the unvaccinated dying in the ICU, their last words: “I wish I’d taken the vaccine!!”

  2. “57% fully vaccinated” is imo, a dishonest statistic when not given along with the number of partially vaccinated. Do you really think people who got their first shot are going to change their mind about the second? It’s given to create a more dire picture that just is not accurate

  3. Why distract the conversations about COVID in Snohomish County with an off-hand comment about Singapore? Yes, we can learn from the way Singapore deals with its public health crises, but that would need a lot more detail than what Mr Richardson provides in one sentence.
    Can we please move on from natural immunity? All experts with any credibility agree that more data is needed to know definitively the extent and durability of any immunity one might get from infection. Sure, there are some credentialed people who espouse other points of view. However the experts we hire and pay to look after the health of the public stand as one that vaccines work.
    Then there is the most serious issue of the strain the unvaccinated are putting on our doctors, nurses and hospitals. Related to this is the angst created among people who need hospital care for haelth conditions unrelated to COVID.
    Vaccines work and wearing masks reduces the spread. This is not rocket science.

  4. We all need to hear more about early treatment options. Fighting the virus and its variants with a double edged sword; vaccine and treatment, can help us win this battle sooner. The next big question is whether young children need to be vaccinated as well. What is the risk benefit ratio?

  5. Example! Monday in the wee hours of the morning I had a full on Grand mal seizure. Our local Swedish hospital would not admit me because of their hospitalized covid cases. I was and still am pretty banged up with bruises and cuts. Fortunately my doctor could and would see me and did patch me up. He also got an immediate appointment to get a CAT scan and doubled the Keppra dose. I am not supposed to be alone until he clears me because a second seizure often follows the first. Would be so much easier in the hospital. But alas, people who would not get a covid shot are taking up the beds.
    Fortunately for me my son and daughter and friends who are also neighbors here in downtown Edmonds are shift sharing.
    So it seems to be that the unvaccinated are using my healthcare. So what about the folks with heart or other emergencies. I ask everyone. How fair is that?

  6. Its horrid what is going on around here. Event after event with out proper distancing, many without masks. Car show showed us that… It was hard to see on here as there was some one in front of the camera blocking view of much of the crowd… All of these events every week every day sometimes…I drove around the other day people not masked all over. Some outside in eating places but not eating just sitting there maskless with no distancing… As long as we continue this situations like this poor citizen above will continue. I like to have fun too. I love to get the best produce and see all the pretty things in Edmonds but not at the risk of making people sick. WE are taking that risk here. Stop it now please…

  7. Thank you Sharalyn Ramm,
    Good questions, I have a heart condition that could possibly need ER health care.
    Would I have to die instead of getting the help needed just because someone decided that a vaccine was not
    what they wanted to do?
    Ingrid Wolsk

  8. I’m old enough to remember people who refused to wear their seatbelts in cars and opposed laws mandating seatbelts. They believed that in a big crash, the seatbelt would trap them in the fiery car and they’d rather be “thrown clear of the wreck.” We know today how silly that sounds. People refusing the vaccine sound similar to me. If they were just hurting themselves that would be their business, but more and more innocent people are dying of treatable conditions around America because unvaccinated covid patients are choking our hospitals and healthcare workers.

      1. I remember too when vaccines were given to only those who never had the disease. More than 100 million Americans have natural immunity, but need to take a vaccine for a communicable virus they’re already immune to? Were polio patients vaccinated post sickness?

  9. People who are spreading the virus by not being vaccinated are part of the reason our country is losing more people during the pandemic than during 9/11. After 9/11 people worked together and underwent not-so-fun restrictions to keep our country safe. And now?

    Thank goodness the majority of people do care and do what’s needed to keep people safe, and it’s unbelievable that a small minority are OK with others dying so that they can keep their “power”.

    But kids are getting sick, and history will judge us. Our grandkids/ great-grandkids will learn about the pandemic and learn about who did their part /who ignored facts.

    Please VOTE and encourage others to vote so that we can move on sooner rather than later!

  10. Even the Seattle Times has managed to squeeze out a few factual articles. Why are our hospitals understaffed so badly? Why are we so critical of natural immunity after Israel released a study showing it has up to 20 times greater efficacy than the waning vaccines? When are the VAERS reports going to be shared and analyzed? When are our doctors who are using treatments going to be allowed to speak? When are Pfizer’s booster test results going to be made widely public? They are available (and pathetic). Blaming the unvaccinated for everything isn’t getting us anywhere. Just like blaming the unmasked hasn’t panned out. The UK is currently backing off of lockdowns because they are at all time high levels, with 80% vaccination. I wonder why the unvaxxed aren’t budging?

  11. I know of 4 people who have just contracted Covid that have been vaccinated. If you have Covid you can spread it, vaccinated or not. I also personally know a woman who got vaccinated because of pressure from her daughter and 4 days later she died unexpectedly after having severe arm pain from the injection and massive onset of lethargy.

    Anyone at any time can form any narrative they choose to form with real life stories. I am vaccinated, but if someone chooses not to be, that is their choice and they should not be pressured to feel bad.

    What about people with natural immunity like me. I was one of the people with Covid back in early March 2020.

    I had to go the the ER twice and had to fight for my life for 2 weeks. Almost 18 months later and I still have Covid anti-bodies. There is a study out of Israel that shows that people with natural immunity have more immunity than people with two Pfizer vaccinations. What if the vaccination somehow ruins my body’s natural immunity? Who has studied that? That’s a legitimate question that no one is addressing.

    Quit trying to divide people over this. Quit making it political. Quit mandating people to do what they don’t want to do and quit shaming them if they don’t do what you want them to do. Quit mandating vaccination passports and making people prove they are vaccinated. Has anyone heard of HIPPA? It’s none of your business!!!!
    Educate and use real science.

    This is getting way out of hand and people are losing their common sense. Let people choose what they want to do with their bodies. If you are afraid of getting Covid, then don’t go out or take precautions. There are many things you can do.

    Get real people and stop this insanity!!

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