FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2020
Heather Thomas, 425.508.4980
COVID-19 Updates in Snohomish County
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – For the first time since early-September, the rolling two-week case rate in Snohomish County decreased, from 444 to 427 per 100,000 residents. Coupled with the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the county these are promising signs.
“For that trend to continue moving in the right direction, we really need all of our residents and businesses to keep those important public health measures up during the holidays,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “As hard as it is, avoiding indoor gatherings, wearing face masks and keeping six feet apart from those we don’t live with are the key to easing restrictions in the new year.”
While the two-week case rate decreased, Snohomish County is still in a very precarious position:
- Long-term care facilities continue to lead to 50-60 new cases weekly. There are ongoing outbreaks in 16 of the 17 skilled nursing facilities, 19 assisted living and 23 adult family homes. These outbreaks account for around 750 cases over the past two months.
- The COVID hospital census—the number of people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19—has been holding steady at 90-100 people daily. These COVID cases represent more than 15 percent of total hospital capacity in the county, with the goal being under 10 percent. On any given day, there are 12-15 individuals requiring mechanical ventilation due to respiratory failure.
- Snohomish County has been averaging 24 deaths per week this month. This is up from 1-2 per week in August and September.
Updates on Vaccine Distribution and Planning
To commemorate the first vaccines, the Health District and Snohomish County released a short video. They are coming at a critical time for the healthcare system, first responders, and all of the long-term care facilities.
The first 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (PRMCE). Dr. Spitters and County Executive Dave Somers were joined by Dr. George Diaz, Section Chief for Infectious Diseases at PRMCE for a virtual media briefing to discuss the vaccines. Dr. Diaz shared that more than 2,000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated at PRMCE since Friday. The recording and transcript of the briefing are available online.
Given the temporary re-allocation of the Pfizer vaccine, there aren’t any shipments of Pfizer expected in Snohomish County this week. The Health District does anticipate the first 17,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine being delivered locally this week. These will all be prioritized to high-risk employees in healthcare settings, with high-risk first responders soon to follow.
Employees and residents at long-term care and similar adult care settings will also begin to receive vaccines through federal partnerships established with Walgreens and CVS in the coming weeks. Walgreens and CVS will be reaching out directly to those facilities to coordinate the process.
Frequently asked questions and updates will continue to be posted at www.snohd.org/covidvaccine. Vaccinated or not, community members need to keep their guard up until vaccine coverage is high and COVID rates are down.
Recommendations for Schools
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) recently released Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students. Key updates of the document:
- Established metrics and thresholds for low, medium, and high transmission categories, with revisions based on emerging research and data gathered by state and national officials.
- Defined a maximum “small group” size of 15 for learning when disease activity is high and defined ‘youngest learners’ as pre-K through 3rd grade.
- This toolkit includes two checklists that ensure readiness of both schools and local health jurisdictions to implement DOH Health and Safety Measures and Labor & Industries requirements and a matrix that summarizes recommendations for the provision of in-person learning based on the community’s metrics.
This document supports the guidance that the Health District has offered since September, allowing schools to gradually phase in hybrid learning young learners and for groups of students who have special needs.
Given this, the Health District recommends that schools may resume classes in January 2021 with the same cohorts who were attending in-person classes prior to winter breaks. Then after a three-week waiting period, schools may follow the framework set forth in the DOH toolkit to consider bringing back additional layers in similarly spaced intervals as appropriate. For those schools where no in-person learning was occurring in December, they may use the framework to start fresh with the highest need and youngest students and then proceed accordingly from there. This guidance assumes continued implementation of all health and safety measures recommended.
Changes to Data Reporting Frequency
The Health District will be modifying the frequency that some of the more detailed reports are published.
There are no changes to the updates being done Monday through Friday, except for holidays. People can still find preliminary case counts, as well as hospitalization and death data under “Local Case Counts” at www.snohd.org/casecounts. We are also adding long term care facility case counts to that dashboard and will continue updating these weekly figures on Mondays and the weekly snapshot by Tuesday.
The more in-depth report with characterization of cases (including maps), outbreaks and deaths will be released every two weeks. The first edition of this bi-weekly report will be published on or about January 5. Other analysis reports will be released as they become available.
The Health District recently published the following:
Holiday Schedule for Drive-Thru Testing
Drive-thru testing operated by the Health District has been modified given upcoming holidays. All sites and the call center will be closed December 24-25 and January 1. The remaining schedule will be as follows:
- 3900 Broadway site in Everett – reduced hours December 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but all other days, including weekends, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Everett Community College site at 915 N. Broadway – open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Lynnwood Food Bank site at 5320 176th St SW – open Mondays and Tuesdays only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Evergreen State Fairgrounds in the front parking lot off of 179th Ave SE in Monroe – open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday, December 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Sultan Elementary School site – closed until January 8.
Testing is by appointment only and registration is now open at www.snohd.org/testing. Those without internet access or needing language assistance can reach the Health District’s call center at 425.339.5278. The call center is staffed 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Callers after hours or on weekends can leave a message, which will be returned on the next business day.
Testing is open to anyone, regardless of symptoms, but remains strongly encouraged for individuals that fit the following criteria:
- Anyone with any of the following COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea); or
- Close contact of a confirmed case; or
- Anyone who lives or works in a congregate setting; or
- Work in healthcare, EMS, law enforcement or other fields where work settings have a higher risk of catching or spreading COVID-19; or
- Part of a family or social network that has had a case.
How Long to Quarantine After Exposure
Updated guidance on how long public health officials should quarantine contacts who have been exposed to COVID-19 was recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and adopted by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
The Snohomish Health District is aligning with CDC and DOH on quarantine timelines. There has been some confusion over the updated timelines that we would like to address here.
The first thing to know is that, even under the updated guidance, 14 days is still the recommended and preferred length of time to quarantine for all individuals. Absent explicit permission from the Health District or an employer to do otherwise, quarantine remains 14 days.
The new guidance allows for flexibility in situations where a full 14 days would create particular hardship, such as economic strain, understaffing in essential work activities, or mental health concerns.
To learn more about the quarantine guidance, the Health District published a new blog.