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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 20, 2021
CONTACT: Heather Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – The latest data report from the Snohomish Health District looked at all cases through July 31. In addition to confirming the impact that the Delta strain is having locally, the report also included a first look at cases by vaccination status.
July had twice as many confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,670 cases compared to 1,322 in June. Of those, nearly 80 percent were among unvaccinated individuals. Meanwhile, over 3,000 cases were reported during the first two weeks of August.
Total number of cases
Number of COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases
“This rapid increase in cases over the past six weeks reflects a combination of a more contagious Delta strain, reduced mask wearing, increased social and larger gatherings, and an incomplete vaccination coverage,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District.
The Delta strain is causing people to get sick quicker, making it easier to spread and to infect more people than previous strains. This is a strain that has become very efficient at moving through communities at lightning speed. In addition to the Delta variant, the time since vaccination and age of the affected population may also be playing a role.
While the proportion of new cases among fully vaccinated residents has increased somewhat, the vaccines are still proving to be highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death. Of the 140 residents hospitalized in July, 79 percent (111 patients) were unvaccinated.
Total COVID-19 related hospitalizations
COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough hospitalizations
Although 20 percent of cases and hospitalizations occurring in fully vaccinated individuals may be concerning about trends in vaccine effectiveness, it should not be cause for alarm. For instance, older people are more likely to have been vaccinated and more likely to have severe disease if infected. That combination could result in a lower apparent effectiveness if age is not accounted for in the analysis.
Further study is underway to evaluate what recent data means for the vaccine’s current effectiveness in preventing infection and severe disease. However, age-group analysis of effectiveness data elsewhere suggests that protection against severe disease is indeed still strong in all age groups. Local hospital leaders are also reporting that it is rare to see fully vaccinated cases in the intensive care unit, unless there are additional factors like immunosuppression or advanced age.
In its most recent statewide transmission report, the Washington State Department of Health noted that “…if the entire population were to experience the rates of hospitalizations currently seen in the unvaccinated, the hospital system would be completely overwhelmed.”
Meanwhile, the recent rise in cases has not yet been associated with an increase in mortality locally.
Total COVID-19 related deaths
COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough deaths
“From January through July, only four fully vaccinated residents died from COVID-19,” noted Dr. Spitters. “These vaccines are doing what they were made to do, and that’s to save lives.”
In addition to the report, the Health District also published new heat and ZIP code maps through July 31. It’s important to note that the ZIP codes in Snohomish County with the lowest vaccination rates are also among the high case rates during that time period.
For more information about the COVID vaccine, including where to find a clinic near you, visit www.snohd.org/covidvaccine.
Washington State Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, M.D., MPH, amended Order 20-03 requiring face masks for everyone over five years of age in most public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status. These include places like grocery stores, malls, gyms, and community centers. Masks are strongly recommended in crowded outdoor settings like sporting events, fairs, and concerts where physical distancing is not possible. The updated order goes into effect on Monday, Aug. 23.
The order follows on the heels of the recommendations of all 35 local health officers in the state of Washington and recent changes to CDC guidance that all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public settings, in areas of substantial or high transmission. With the rise of the more infectious Delta variant, every county in Washington is currently categorized as having substantial or high transmission.
Reinstating mask requirements is necessary in addition to increasing vaccinations, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Washington. The health care system is under immense strain, due in part to increased COVID-19 transmission, mostly among unvaccinated people.
There are some exceptions to the indoor mask requirement, including:
It is important to use and handle masks properly. A mask should fit snugly over both your mouth and nose, and it should not have holes or tears in the fabric. Cloth face coverings should be washed frequently, ideally after each use, and certainly daily. If you are not able to wash it after each use, wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face.
For more information about the state mask requirements, visit www.doh.wa.gov/masks.
The schedule for the week of August 23 is as follows:
Appointments for testing are required, and registration is available 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 to schedule a testing appointment. 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.