Public Health Essentials

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Jul 19

We’re still at a high COVID Community Level. Here are 4 things you should know.

Posted on July 19, 2022 at 10:03 AM by Kari Bray

Summary: COVID transmission is high and the health care system continues to be under stress due to high demand for services and low staffing. Get up-to-date with COVID vaccinations and boosters and stay up-to-date, mask up in public settings, avoid crowds and large gatherings, isolate yourself and get tested if you have symptoms.  

  1. Hospitalization numbers pushed Snohomish County from medium to high under the CDC’s Community Levels. Starting with the July 5 data update from the Snohomish Health District and continuing through this week’s update, the number of COVID-related hospital admissions is up enough for us to be considered a county with high risk.

    There were 13.6 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population over the course of 7 days. The CDC’s threshold for the high community level is 10 or more new admissions per 100,000. At that level, CDC recommends increased prevention measures, including voluntary masking in indoor public spaces.

  2. The healthcare system is feeling the strain. Summer already can be a busy time for hospitals and urgent cares. Every surge in COVID infection puts increased pressure on the providers we all rely on for routine and emergency health care. As of Monday, there were 63 people hospitalized with COVID in Snohomish County. That’s up from 53 COVID hospitalizations a month ago.

    Over the last two-and-a-half years, a priority of the COVID prevention measures has been to preserve healthcare capacity. If hospitals, urgent cares, and clinics become overwhelmed, it can have dangerous consequences not only for COVID patients, but for anyone who needs care.

  3. The tried-and-true prevention measures work, and we need them. This is the time to make sure you are up-to-date on COVID vaccinations and booster doses. Not sure when to get your booster, or whether you should get a second one? The Washington State Department of Health has a table available online that outlines booster information. Though it still is possible for someone who is vaccinated to get COVID, being vaccinated and boosted drastically decreases the likelihood of severe illness and hospitalization.

    Everyone should also keep their masks handy. Masks still are required in certain settings, and with the community level at high, CDC recommends masks in indoor public spaces. If you’re outdoors at a crowded venue, that’s also a good time to wear a mask. Voluntary masking – regardless of vaccination status – can help slow the spread of illness.

    And if you feel sick, stay home and test for COVID. If you have been exposed to COVID, test immediately if you have symptoms or wait five days after the exposure to test if you do not have symptoms. Anyone who tests positive or has been exposed should follow isolation and quarantine guidance. The DOH’s Isolation & Quarantine Calculator is a useful tool if you’re not sure how long to stay home and away from others.

  4. New Omicron subvariants are circulating. Omicron is a variant of the COVID-19 virus that first caused a surge in cases this past winter. BA.4 and BA.5 are subvariants of Omicron, and CDC data show that these are now the dominant strains of COVID in the U.S. They appear to be particularly contagious and could signal additional increases in cases and hospitalizations.

    Summer brings opportunities for prevention measures. As the weather gets nicer, you can take gatherings outside. Fresh air and room for people to spread out can make a big difference in reducing the likelihood of COVID transmission.

    However, highly contagious variants of the virus don’t care what season we’re in, and we’re still seeing a lot of cases. Outbreaks are being reported by employers as well as by summer camps and similar activities where people are together in groups. Be thoughtful this summer in your interactions with others, and make sure you and your family are not traveling, attending events, or going to work or camp while contagious with COVID.