There is some good news in the fight to contain COVID in Snohomish County. County Executive Dave Somers told reporters Tuesday that “we’re making real progress, but it is rather fragile; our progress comes with caution.”
Of those county residents age 12 and older, 70% are now fully vaccinated. But Somers reminded the weekly briefing that figure still means almost a third of people do not yet have full immunization or have not begun to get their shots.
But tempering that ‘progress’ is the rate of new coronavirus cases, which edged up countywide – from 331 cases per 100,000 people to 351. Health District Administrative Officer Shawn Frederick said there were 1,600 new cases in the past week and that it’s likely the case rate may still top 400 soon. The county, said both officials, is just coming off the fifth wave of COVID.
Frederick told reporters that in the past two weeks, children and younger adults now account for three of every four new cases. The numbers, he added, show that one in five new patients is 14 or younger (662 cases); that 57% of new patients are between 20-49 years old. “It is too early to tell how many (new patients) were vaccinated,” he said.
We asked if Madrona K-8 will reopen next Monday, after a COVID-19 outbreak shut down the Edmonds School District school until Nov. 1. Just a week ago, 26 active cases and another 174 students “in close contact” forced the district to close Madrona; the first school in the county closed this fall due to COVID. “We’re not able to share specifics,” Frederick told us, “because of HIPPA (federal health privacy rules). But, he added that “what happened at Madrona is really not unique.”
District spokesperson Lisa Van Cise said that as far as she knows, “Madrona is still on schedule” to reopen on Monday. District data show only one additional active case among students in the past week. Students are continuing classes remotely, online.
The school is making some adjustments to try to avoid another outbreak. Parents and staff have been notified. The model at Madrona is that elementary students move between teaching “centers” depending on the subject. From now on, only teachers will move between centers to try to reduce unnecessary contact. Other precautions include:
- Seventh and eighth graders will sanitize their chairs and tables.
- All students will wipe down any shared supplies.
- More hand sanitizing stations will be installed.
- High-contact areas will see more cleaning.
- Classes will also have scheduled hand-washing times throughout the day.
- Madrona will reduce the number of students at each recess and expand social distancing outside zones.
- Additional classified staff will be hired to provide more supervision.
- In the lunchroom, all students will remain seated until they are allowed to leave their area.
We asked Van Cise if the district can explain how Madrona was hit so hard. She said they do not know. The Health District’s Frederick told reporters that it was too soon to know what contact tracing would reveal about the Madrona COVID surge.
The county says it is waiting for word on when vaccines will be available for children ages 5-11. An advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration has just recommended that lower doses of the Pfizer vaccine be approved for children. The FDA has not officially authorized those shots yet; the Centers for Disease Control meets next week to decide whether to recommend them and which children should get them.
If the kids’ vaccine gets the go-ahead, the county says it will work with health care providers, clinics and possibly schools that want to be involved in administering shots. So far, no district in the county has issued a mandate for vaccinating students.
Two Snohomish County locations are still open to provide vaccinations and other sites are also handling shots. Click here to find out where.
At the end of the briefing, Somers again stressed that the general coronavirus trend has been downward, even though “there was a small increase this week; hopefully, it’s a blip,” he said. “We’re not aware of virus surges or other strains causing an upward trend. It is still slowly downward.”
— By Bob Throndsen