Weekly COVID briefing: For now, Snohomish County won’t require masks at large outdoor gatherings

County Executive Dave Somers

Snohomish County will not – for now – order that masks be worn at large outdoor gatherings such as sports, concerts, and festivals. King and Pierce counties last week ordered masks must be worn at all large outdoor events.

County Executive Dave Somers, at the weekly COVID briefing, said that what King and Pierce did has “certainly some merit in it”, but that’s as far as he would go.

The county’s chief health officer, Dr. Chris Spitters, did tell reporters that an outdoor mask mandate “is under consideration; stay tuned later in the week — we may have more on that.”

The question came as the county reports 31 COVID deaths in August, up from 13 in July. A total of 107 patients are hospitalized county-wide, 30 of them on ventilators, with ICU bed demand “up 40-50% over the last week or so,” Spitters added. At the same time, new COVID cases have plateaued, with the county reporting 1,500-2,000 cases in the last week. Final numbers and charts are delayed by a day or so due to the Labor Day weekend, he said.

Johns Hopkins University,which tracks COVID data nationwide, has reported three times the number of new COVID cases this Labor Day compared with last year — 137,270 this Labor Day vs. 39,355 last year.

With the county’s surge in deaths and ICU cases, and the number of new cases recently tying the all-time high from a year ago, Somers was asked why not issue mask mandates as the county did during the first pandemic wave? “I’d rather have self-imposed restrictions in bars and restaurants,” said Somers, “rather than the shutdowns we had earlier in the pandemic.”

Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters

Both county leaders shied away from the word “mandate”; the strongest words Somers and Spitters used were “encourage” or “suggest” wearing a mask indoors and outdoors. Spitters did warn that “we’re bracing ourselves for what’s (to come) downstream; I’m very concerned and waiting with bated breath.”

As an example, Somers said he had been to the Evergreen Fair on Monday and that “it felt very comfortable to be there.” He thought mask compliance was pretty good. Asked about reports of a positive test on a vendor, Spitters said there was a person who had worked at the fair but not during their infectious period. He acknowledged that we may see more cases from the fair as time goes by.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that though the delta variant is more contagious, the daily chance of a vaccinated person catching COVID is 1 in 10,000 in King County. That’s one COVID case per 10,000 fully vaccinated residents since delta started spreading versus nine new cases per 10,000 residents who are not fully vaccinated. The newspaper quoted Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University, who said “there’s been a lot of mis-communication about what the risks really are to vaccinated people and how vaccinated people should be thinking about their lives.”

To that point, Spitters said Snohomish County is still analyzing data from August, but that the local new case rate in vaccinated people here “is about 80% lower than in unvaccinated people.” That’s not quite as good as the Seattle-area numbers, but Spitters added that an 80% reduction is still “very good” and that the vaccines do help reduce serious illness and ICU cases.

Snohomish County numbers:

  • 56% totally vaccinated.
  • 200,000 teens and adults have not started to get shots.
  • 125,000 children under 12 still are not eligible.
  • Recent vaccinations have doubled, with 6,000 starting last week.

The county is making changes to its testing facilities. The Lynnwood Food Bank site is closed. A new site opens Wednesday at the Ash Way Park and Ride. It will offer tests Wednesdays through Sundays between 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The Everett test location remains open Mondays-Fridays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.. Spitter said a new North County location will open soon. Here’s what you need to know about test sites.

When a reporter asked about doctors in Stanwood being asked to prescribe antiparasitic drug ivermectin, both men quickly condemned it. Ivermectin is commonly used to by veterinarians to de-worm horses and other animals and used occasionally on humans to treat parasites. Spitters put it this way: “Here we have an effective vaccine that some are reluctant to get, yet people are clamoring for a drug that’s ineffective and potentially dangerous and for COVID shows no benefit.”

Yet, the Washington State Department of Health reports nearly 90,000 ivermectin prescriptions were issued in the U.S during the second week of August.

— By Bob Throndsen











2 Replies to “Weekly COVID briefing: For now, Snohomish County won’t require masks at large outdoor gatherings”

  1. “Here we have an effective vaccine that some are reluctant to get, yet people are clamoring for a drug that’s ineffective and potentially dangerous and for COVID shows no benefit.”

    You mean the vaccine that is so effective that you still have to wear a mask? That vaccine? The vaccine that still leaves you able to contract the virus? That vaccine?

  2. The vaccine that makes it less likely you will have serious problems if you do contract the virus; the vaccine that the highest rate yet of pediatric cases among unvaccinated children could have avoided; the vaccine that leaves low-vaccination Idaho having to resort to triage; the vaccine that leaves dying anti-vaxxers wishing they’d been vaccinated; the vaccine that means 95% of hospitalized covid cases are unvaccinated; the vaccine that a 600% increase in cases related to the Sturgis rally among the unvaccinated/unmasked could have prevented?

    Yeah, that vaccine.

    The one that also makes you less likely to pass on the virus if you’re vaccinated. And to be sure, yes, you wear a mask so you don’t spread it. Yeah, that vaccine.

    The vaccine that makes you safer and makes the people around you safer because you will carry a lower virus load if you do get it? That one.

    Nothing is perfect or 100%. But you are either part of the solution, or part of the problem.

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