With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increasing, public health officials worry Snohomish County could move back into Phase 2.

“We’re going back in the wrong direction again,” Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, said in a news release. “But we have an opportunity to turn it around ourselves before a retreat in recovery is forced upon us.”

After nine weeks of steady decreases, the case rate has increased for the third week in a row. It is now at 121 per 100,000 residents for the two-week period ending April 3. 

In addition, test positivity and hospitalizations are ticking back up. On Monday, there were 26 residents hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications and three required mechanical ventilation to breathe. From a week earlier, 15 were hospitalized from COVID. 

If case rates continue to climb, Snohomish County could slide back to the more restrictive Phase 2 in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery. 

“We need you to act now to protect people’s health and keep us in Phase 3,” said Spitters, urging people to make safe decisions over spring break. 

When moving into Phase 3 in March, Inslee also said counties only needed to meet two of four metrics in order to advance and to stay in Phase 3. Previously, a region needed to meet three of the four metrics, which include a 10% decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period; a 10% decrease in coronavirus hospital admission rates in that same timeframe; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%.

Counties will be evaluated every three weeks, starting on April 12. If any county fails one or more of the metrics, they will move down one phase. If statewide ICU capacity tops 90%, all counties will move back to the most restrictive first phase, which includes a prohibition on indoor restaurant dining.

Health officials recommend people wear masks around people you don’t live with, ensure windows or doors are open to increase ventilation when gathering inside, keep physical distance between people, wash hands often, and defer non-essential gatherings until the community is further down the road in getting vaccinated.

As of last week, more than 20% of people 16 and older in Snohomish County are fully vaccinated, according to Health District data. Another 90,000 are waiting for a second dose.

Likewise, Island County has about 20% of people 16 and older fully vaccinated and about 11,000 are waiting for a second dose, according to state Department of health data.

Fully vaccinated people are protected from severe illness due to COVID and are less likely to spread the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It takes two weeks after your final shot to be considered fully vaccinated.

And because of the recent uptick in cases in Snohomish County and elsewhere in the state, Inslee last week allowed all Washingtonians age 16 and up to become eligible for the vaccine, effective April 15 — more than two weeks earlier than previously announced. 

The move essentially abandons the state’s tiered vaccine rollout used over the last four months, one that prioritized the elderly and those most susceptible to the virus.

“We must do everything possible to ensure that we can keep cases down,” Inslee said during his March 31 news conference. “We have concerns about the trends we are seeing across the state and we must be cautious. Opening up full eligibility will be one tool to help in the fight against the virus.”

In addition, health officials are worried about emerging virus variants, including the detection of the P.1 variant — first identified in travelers from Brazil — in Snohomish County.

“The expansion of these more transmissible variants further highlights the importance of reinforcing all of our prevention efforts and the urgency of making rapid progress in the vaccination effort,” Spitters said. 

Meanwhile, there have been 10 cases of Snohomish County residents who contracted COVID after they’ve been fully vaccinated. None have been hospitalized or died.

“Vaccine breakthrough cases can and do occur with virtually all vaccines, given that few are 100% effective,” Spitters said. “The number of vaccine breakthrough cases in Snohomish County remains exceptionally low. This demonstrates just how effective the vaccines are, but it also highlights the importance of continuing to wear masks and watch your distance around people you don’t live with.”

Large-scale clinical studies found that COVID-19 vaccines reduced the risk of getting COVID-19 in vaccinated people by up to 95% compared to people that did not receive the vaccine. 

So-called “breakthrough cases” have been identified in 18 Washington counties. The majority of confirmed vaccine breakthrough cases experienced only mild symptoms, if any. Since Feb. 1, eight vaccinated people have been hospitalized statewide. 

Stanwood, Camano cases

Virus cases increased last week in Stanwood.

Stanwood recorded 22 new cases during last week, up from 14 new cases during the previous week, according to Snohomish Health District data released Monday. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,013 cases recorded in Stanwood.

On Camano Island, there were five cases detected in the most recent during the past week, down from eight during the previous seven-day stretch, according to Island County Public Health data as of Monday. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 351 cases recorded on Camano.

In Island County, the COVID infection rate continued dropping after seeing a spike in early March. The rate is now at 54.2 cases per 100,000 people, according to the state Department of Health. 

New mass vaccine site to open

A new mass vaccination site opened Tuesday, April 6, at Boom City, 10274 27th Ave. NE in Tulalip. 

The Boom City site is set up for drive-thru access. Like the other mass vaccination sites, it is by appointment only for those eligible under the phased approach to vaccination. 

Waitlist feature

The Snohomish County vaccine taskforce has added a waitlist feature to the online registration for mass vaccination sites. 

If appointments are full, people can now sign up for a waitlist for that day only. If there is a cancellation or additional doses are otherwise available at the site that day, people on the waitlist will be notified. 

Registration links for appointments are available at bit.ly/snocovaccine or through the state website: vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.

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