The COVID-19 infection rate is trending downward in Snohomish County, but officials warn there’s still a long way to go on the road to recovery.
“Even though the curve has turned a little bit, it’s still at an incredibly high level,” Snohomish County health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said in a briefing last week. “We’re still going to experience the suffering, hospitalizations and deaths created by the cases that occurred several weeks ago.”
The rolling two-week case rate in Snohomish County decreased for the second straight week, dropping to 330 cases per 100,000 residents from 417 cases per 100,000 people a week prior, according to data released Monday from the Snohomish Health District. Officials noted that testing was limited due to Christmas, possibly contributing to the steep decline.
Island County's rate ticked up slightly to 162.7 infections per 100,000 people, according to the state Department of Health.
“The faster we can get this curve to go down the better,” Spitters said.
However, the virus is still widespread throughout the region, and parts of Snohomish County are still seeing coronavirus infection rates increasing. The effect of holiday gatherings remains to be seen.
An average of 24 COVID-19 deaths per week have occurred in the last four weeks — up from one to two per week in August and September, according to the Health District.
“So although the trajectory (of cases) is favorable … the branching impacts in the healthcare system and on mortality remain fearsome,” Spitters said. “We need to all pull together and continue to try to reduce transmission.”
Long-term care facilities continue to have 50-60 new cases weekly, according to the Health District. 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.
Over the weekend, Snohomish County recorded 668 new COVID-19 cases. Stanwood has recorded 172 new cases since Dec. 1. Camano has seen 73 infections from Dec. 1-23, according to the most recent Island County data.
As of Monday, there were 115 COVID-19 patients and 23 suspected virus-related patients in Snohomish County hospitals — 15 of those were on a ventilator, according to county data.
“I still remain cautiously optimistic that this is a true bend in the curve rather than a short term artifact of the surveillance system and that it will be sustained,” Spitters said. “But 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 and beyond.
Last week, Snohomish County received 14,200 doses of the newly-approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state Department of Health. Island County received 1,000 doses in addition to 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Most doses went to frontline hospital workers.
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, according to the Snohomish Health District. Walgreens and CVS will be reaching out directly to those facilities to coordinate the process.
Josephine Caring Community, which has seen more than 170 COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths since late October, is scheduled to receive the vaccine in mid-January, according to Josephine CEO Terry Robertson.
“This whole endeavor has been a build-it-as-you-go event, and (vaccine distribution) is no different,” Spitters said. “Certainly, it can be frustrating and worrisome to long-term care staff, residents and families of those residents that it’s not happening as quickly as the health care lane of activity, but I think this is not the first challenge to our patients in the epidemic, nor will it be the last.”
The state Department of Health has said more vaccine shipments should begin arriving in January.
The first group in Snohomish County eligible for the vaccine, known as Phase 1a, includes 15,000 to 16,000 high-risk workers in health care settings, high-risk first responders, and employees at long-term care and similar adult care settings. There also are 10,000 to 12,000 residents living in the long-term or adult care facilities that are eligible to receive the vaccine.
The Snohomish County Joint Information Center twice weekly publishes COVID-19 Brief, with pandemic-related updates and community information. In today’s edition: Some good COVID news, and some that could be better. https://t.co/QxfwItdfaM pic.twitter.com/kWvyJP0efc— Snohomish County DEM (@SnoCo_DEM) December 22, 2020