FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2021
Heather Thomas, 425.508.4980
Continued Mask Usage and Increasing Vaccination Rates Bring Drop in Cases
Snohomish County finally sees decrease in case rate since March
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – For the first time in more than two months, the two-week case rate saw a significant decrease. The case rate for the period ending May 15 was 193 per 100,000 residents, down from a rate of 226 for the previous period. That figure still represents 700-800 reported cases weekly in Snohomish County.
Recently published data through April 30 shows the fourth wave’s activity has largely been driven by increase among those under ages 20-49 and, to a lesser extent, children and adolescents.
The recent drop in cases is a welcome change, attributed in large part to the continued increase in vaccination rates. Everyone 16 and up became eligible April 15, and then eligibility expanded to youth 12 and up almost one month later on May 13. Adolescents and young adults have been making up large portions of those being vaccinated in recent weeks. Trends like these need to continue in the weeks ahead, particularly among those 20-59, in order to keep driving down the number of cases and to increase the likelihood of easing statewide restrictions before June 30.
In the meantime, masks are still a requirement for unvaccinated people in public settings. While the Snohomish Health District does not have plans to issue a masking directive for public indoor spaces, or to be more restrictive than the Secretary of Health’s updated face covering order, the District endorses the principles underlying the intention of King County’s indoor masking directive. Although decreasing slightly, transmission levels are still high in the community and vaccination coverage is not yet sufficient to permit relaxing of the prevention measures for unvaccinated people.
“There is no easy way to know who is and is not vaccinated in public spaces, so it seems reasonable to assume there will be both vaccinated and unvaccinated people without masks in public indoor settings,” cautioned Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “Unmasked, unvaccinated people gathering indoors will fuel ongoing transmission and prolong the fourth wave that appears to have crested.”
Consequently, the Health District finds it quite reasonable for businesses, employers and other organizations to continue requiring masks for all staff and customers at their discretion. This approach takes the burden off those enterprises to vet their occupants’ vaccination status while also permitting them to provide a maximally safe environment.
Governor Inslee issued an extension of the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery emergency proclamation, Proclamation 20-25.13. Additionally, the governor issued new worker protections through Proclamation 21-08 that safeguards employees who wish to get vaccinated, or who are in isolation or quarantine, from adverse action by their employer. The safe worker proclamation also aligns with the CDC recommendation that employers provide flexible options for worker vaccinations.
Washington State Labor & Industries also released updated guidance for fully vaccinated employees. This information, in addition to industry and event specific guidance, provide frameworks for businesses to continue to safely reopen.
Some important reminders about the updates:
- Employers must require proof of vaccination or self-attestation from every employee before those employees are permitted to work at the worksite without wearing a face covering as permitted under the general rule referenced above. Employers may choose the form of proof they will require.
- If an employee is not fully vaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown, employers must continue to require masks and social distancing.
- The new guidance does not change masking rules for health care settings like hospitals, long-term care, or doctor’s offices; correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools, child care centers or day camps. The federal order requiring masks on public transportation remains in place.
- Employers cannot fire or discriminate against an employee who is at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and is seeking accommodation that protects them from COVID-19 exposure.
- Employers may require vaccination as a condition of employment, except as prohibited by state or federal law.
“Now is a good time for all unvaccinated community members to pursue getting vaccinated so we can move closer to the time when all of this will no longer be necessary,” added Dr. Spitters.
COVID Testing Schedule
The schedule for the week of May 24 will be as follows:
- Everett site located at 3715 Oakes Avenue – Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Lynnwood Food Bank site at 5320 176th St SW – open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 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, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Note that the Lynnwood Food Bank testing site will be closed on Saturday, May 29 and all sites will be closed on Monday, May 31 in observance of Memorial Day.
Appointments for testing are encouraged, 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.