FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2020
Heather Thomas, 425.508.4980
Early Insights into Increase in COVID-19 Cases in Snohomish County
Health District continues to modify and augment response needs
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – For the third straight week, appointments booked up in advance for the community-based test sites operated by the Snohomish Health District. This increased demand is further compounded by some local provider groups seeing significant delays with their commercial labs backed up amidst the growing numbers of cases nationally.
Many local healthcare providers, along with the Health District, are no longer providing testing for travel-related purposes or for pre-approval needs for medical procedures in order to prioritize people who are ill or connected to a confirmed case, outbreak or high-risk population.
Given the demand and delays in results, the Health District will once again pivot its operations to increase testing capacity in Snohomish County. For the week of July 20, the Health District will only offer drive-thru testing at McCollum Park located at 600 128th St SE in Everett. The schedule is as follows:
- Monday, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Tuesday, July 21 from noon to 7 p.m.
- Wednesday, July 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Thursday, July 23 from noon to 7 p.m.
- Friday, July 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The smaller testing sites that have rotated around the county have seen 80-120 individuals per day, but have added complexities in planning multiple locations and transporting equipment around Snohomish County day-to-day. By consolidating testing at just the McCollum Park location, and limiting the need to move between sites, the goal is to test up to 225-250 people per day next week. Plans are also underway to identify 1-2 larger sites to move to in August to further increase capacity.
Testing will be available to those who are:
- Sick and have developed any of the following symptoms within the last 14 days:
- Difficulty breathing,
- Muscle pain or body aches,
- Sore throat,
- Runny nose or nasal congestion, or
- New loss of taste or smell.
- Asymptomatic individuals who:
- Are a close contact of a confirmed case, or
- Live in a congregate setting, like a shelter, group home or assisted living facility, or
- Work in a location that has had a case,
- Part of a family or social network that has had a case, or
- Work in healthcare, EMS, law enforcement or other fields where work settings have a higher risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, or
- Are part of a racial or ethnic group that has been disproportionately impacted by this virus in terms of rate or severity of cases (this includes people who are Black, Latinx, Native American/Alaskan Native, or Pacific Islander).
Registration is now open at www.snohd.org/drive-thru-testing.
Data Updates and COVID Activity Snapshot
The Health District is still providing updates Monday-Friday of total confirmed, total probable, and a breakdown of cases by city. A weekly report is now being posted on Fridays, providing a more detailed analysis of cases in Snohomish County from the prior week.
The report for the week ending July 11 has been posted, as well as the updated COVID activity snapshot that provides metrics aligned with the Phase 2 approval. Key highlights for the time period from June 25 – July 9 include:
- A case rate of 62.1 per 100,000 in a 14-day period, up from 58.3 per 100,000 from June 18 – July 2.
- Average percentage of tests positive for COVID-19 continues to increase, at 6.1% compared to 4.6% in the published report last week.
There have been some questions received on why these updates do not match information on the Phases and Risk Assessment Dashboard provided by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). The data online change every day when new cases get reported. This is because the newly reported cases on any given day have a variety of different specimen collection dates. DOH’s dashboard is updated frequently, whereas the Health District’s report is a weekly snapshot. Overall, these are negligible, technical differences that do not affect the information and general impression provided by the data.
Concern about Increase in Younger Cases
As previously reported, the ages of confirmed cases has been decreasing in recent weeks. Of the 547 new cases reported June 28 – July 11, 52.1% were individuals under the age of 30. This highest percentage was found among 20-29 year olds, representing 164 new cases or 30% in a 2-week period. Those 30-39 represented the second highest, at 17.7% or 97 new cases.
There are likely a variety of reasons for this shift. One points to the notion that older residents, significantly impacted earlier in the year, have heeded public health warnings to stay close to home except for essential errands. Additional rules restricting visitors to assisted living, long-term care and similar facilities have also been successful at decreasing rates in older adults.
That early focus may have also led many younger adults and teenagers to believe COVID-19 is not a risk to them. Another concern is looking at the types of employment these younger age ranges have. Those with jobs are more likely to work in retail, food service or hospitality, increasing the number of people they come into contact with on a daily basis.
More on Social Gatherings
However, based on information gathered from cases during recent contact investigations, a substantial proportion of recent cases are associated with gatherings shared by contact tracers earlier this week, staff did a quick analysis of new cases connected to recent social gatherings.
Preliminary data from June 20 – July 11 showed:
- 82 new cases (confirmed and probable) associated with at least 36 social gatherings.
- The number of cases associated with a single social event ranged from 1-9, with a median of 5 cases at a single event.
- The number of attendees ranged from 4-40, with an average of 13 people.
- The largest single day was July 4, with 30 separate social events linked to cases.
Even though Snohomish County remains in Phase 2, and social gatherings are limited to no more than five people outside of the household, this data suggests many are exceeding that.
While it may seem as though a few extra people is no big deal, these findings show that it is a big deal. There is very little margin for error with this virus, and the Health District is encouraging people to keep their social groups as small as possible and no greater than five people outside the home in a week. Ideally, people should maintain the same group of five across time. Less people, less risk. More people, more risk.
Update on Race and Ethnicity Data
In April, the Health District evaluated the possibility of racial or ethnic disparities related to COVID-19. An updated analysis has been completed on the 4,447 confirmed cases from January 20 – July 10, 2020. That report can be found online.
COVID-19 is exposing some of the underlying disparities in health status--both the factors that underlie individual health, as well as those that determine the health of the community as a whole. The higher case rates found in non-white racial and ethnic groups reflect disparities in occupational exposures. Frontline healthcare and other essential workers are more common among racial and ethnic minorities.
Additional disparities include differences in access to healthcare, educational opportunities, housing, availability of and access to healthy food, increased tobacco use, and limited physical activity opportunities in the neighborhoods where many live. These social determinants of health are linked to medical impacts like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and lung disease, all of which increase the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID.
The community is encouraged to help prevent the spread of illness and to support the response to this outbreak by staying informed and sharing reliable information. This is a very fluid situation and information will be updated at www.snohd.org/ncov2019 and the Health District’s social media channels.