FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2021
Snohomish County Joint Information Center
Help Needed to Turn Numbers Around Quickly
Community asked to celebrate wisely, limit nonessential gatherings as the number of cases and variants are increasing
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – After nine weeks of steady decreases, the case rate has increased for the second week in a row. It is now at 92 per 100,000 residents for the two-week period ending March 27.
In addition to the case rate increasing, test positivity and hospitalizations are also starting to tick back up. Test positivity—or the percent of confirmed positive tests out of all COVID-19 specimens collected—has risen from 5% to 7% over the last couple of weeks. On Monday, there were 15 residents hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications and three required mechanical ventilation to breathe. As of today, there are 26 hospitalized and 3 on ventilators.
“We’re going back in the wrong direction again, but we have an opportunity to turn it around ourselves before a retreat in recovery is forced upon us,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District.
If case rates continue to climb, Snohomish County could slide back to Phase 2 in Governor Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery. This means resuming more restrictions on business and activities, which no one wants to do again. It is very difficult to reverse course quickly but acting now can bend the curve back down before it’s too late. This relies on the community stepping up efforts to overcome premature exuberance about a hopeful future and to fend off emerging variants of the COVID-19 virus while vaccination efforts proceed.
“We need you to act now to protect people’s health and keep us in Phase 3,” added Dr. Spitters. “Please celebrate wisely and make safe decisions, especially with upcoming holidays and spring breaks from school.”
Mask up whenever around people you don’t live with—indoors or outdoors. If gathering indoors, ensure windows or doors are open to increase ventilation. Keep that physical distance between yourself and others, and make sure to wash hands often. Lastly, try to defer non-essential gatherings until the community is further down the road in getting vaccinated.
This is more important than ever given the increase in variants of concern in Snohomish County and Washington state. The weekly variant report from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) published on April 1 showed expansion of several more transmissible strains (e.g., B.1.429, B.1.1.7) and new detection of the P.1 variant in Snohomish County. While these results demonstrate the presence of the variant strains here in the county, they do not provide a precise estimate of their prevalence. Instead, specimens are analyzed are a non-representative sample of positive specimens collected.
First identified in travelers from Brazil, the P.1 variant has 17 unique mutations. There is evidence to suggest that some of the mutations may affect the ability of antibodies (natural and from vaccine) to recognize and neutralize the virus in laboratory experiments. However, clinical trials of COVID vaccination in Brazil have still shown excellent results in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death.
“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,” said Dr. Spitters.
The detection of these COVID-19 variants in Snohomish County is a reminder that this pandemic is not over. Because COVID-19 variants may spread more easily, it is vital that we all follow these guidelines:
- Wear a well-made, well-fitting face mask, even with people you see regularly and in your smallest social circles.
- Continue to avoid non-essential gatherings with people outside your home, keep gatherings small (less than 10), and do it outside whenever possible.
- Avoid any social gatherings indoors, but if participating, wear a mask and ensure windows and doors are open to maximize ventilation.
- Wear a mask while in the car with other people, including with family who do not live in your household.
- Wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, and carry hand sanitizer for use when water and soap are not available.
- Stay home if you are sick or if you have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive.
- Sign up for Washington Exposure Notifications, also known as WA Notify. WA Notify is a free tool that alerts smartphone users if they have been exposed to COVID-19. The program does not share personal information or track where you go.
Vaccine Progress in Snohomish County
Based on data through March 30, more than 330,000 vaccines have been administered and 132,511 Snohomish County residents are now fully vaccinated. That represents 20 percent of all residents 16 years or older in the county.
More than half of Snohomish County residents over the age of 65 had received at least one dose of vaccine as of March 14, and the number has increased since then. Still, there are many seniors who have not yet been vaccinated. As eligibility requirements open up and more people book appointments, it is important to ensure seniors still have access to vaccination.
Ways to help include:
- If you are a senior, work with seniors, or know a senior who is struggling to get an appointment, direct them to the COVID-19 call center for Snohomish County. The call center at 425-339-5278 is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They can help book appointments.
- If you are booking an appointment for your vaccine, check if a senior in your circle needs assistance registering or getting to the site. Encourage them to join you and offer to carpool if needed. Bring a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle with you to make sure they can get their shot, too.
- If you have registered for multiple vaccination appointments while shopping around for the soonest appointment, please remember to cancel the appointments that you will not use so that they are available for someone else.
Vaccine supply is improving but it isn’t keeping pace with demand. Please be patient in the coming days and weeks.
While Snohomish County is expected to begin receiving small allocations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again next week, there were announcements about a vaccine ingredient produced by a contractor having to be destroyed.
“Even though it is a disappointment to see vaccine having to be discarded, the detection of the problem and the manufacturer’s forthright actions are very reassuring about the effectiveness of measures to ensure safety of the vaccine supply,” noted Dr. Spitters. “This does not impact the safety of vaccines already shipped or administered but may delay or reduce future allocations as the ripple of that temporary dip in production works itself out.”
As a reminder, there are a number of ways to look for available vaccine appointments:
- Information on the Snohomish County Vaccine Taskforce’s mass vaccination site is provided at http://bit.ly/snocovaccine, along with appointment registration links and which vaccine (Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer) is being administered at each site.
- Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has updated its vaccine locator page at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov allowing people to search by their ZIP code.
- The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program in Washington is receiving 72,000 doses of vaccine directly from the federal government. The pharmacies taking part in this program locally are Albertsons, Costco, Health Mart Pharmacies, Rite Aid, Kroger, and Walmart. These sites will prioritize educators, school staff, and childcare workers this month, but anyone who is eligible for vaccine can make an appointment at one of the pharmacies. For a full list of Federal Retail Pharmacy Program locations, visit www.vaccinefinder.org. Vaccine Finder is run by the federal government.
- Veterans of all ages may contact the VA’s Puget Sound Health Care System at 206-716-5716 to schedule an appointment or contact their VA primary care team directly.
Vaccine Breakthrough Cases
DOH thoroughly investigates and attempt to conduct testing for variants among all confirmed cases of COVID-19 occurring more than two weeks after being fully vaccinated. DOH epidemiologists report 102 such breakthrough cases since February 1, which represents 0.008% of the 1.35 million fully vaccinated people in Washington.
There have been 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving fully vaccinated residents of Snohomish County (0.007%). None of these 10 have been hospitalized or died.
“Vaccine breakthrough cases can and do occur with virtually all vaccines, given that few are 100% effective,” said Dr. Spitters. “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.
Breakthrough cases have been identified in 18 Washington counties. The majority of confirmed vaccine breakthrough cases experienced only mild symptoms, if any. However, since February 1, eight people with vaccine breakthrough have been hospitalized statewide. DOH is investigating two potential vaccine breakthrough cases where the patients died. Both patients were more than 80 years old and suffered from underlying health issues.
Further investigation will help to identify patterns among people who have COVID-19 after vaccination, such as if a virus variant may have caused the infection.
For more information see the full DOH press release.
Reminder on Data Updates
The Health District’s epidemiologists continue managing, analyzing, and reporting on COVID-19 morbidity and vaccination data for Snohomish County. We are adjusting the frequency of various reports to best allocate our resources for their utility in guiding our disease control efforts. Effective March 29, reporting of new case counts scaled back from daily to weekly.
It usually takes a couple days for confirmed cases to be reported to us by the labs and providers, so moving to this weekly reporting of case counts will allow more accurate daily trends to be shared retrospectively. These will now come out on Mondays, along with the weekly case rate, hospitalization, long-term care, and mortality updates. The bi-weekly reports and maps will now move to monthly, but the release schedules for rest of the reports and graphs will remain as-is.
As a reminder, the DOH dashboard is another resource available online at www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard.
COVID Testing Schedule
The schedule for the week of April 5 remains 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, Thursday and Saturday 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.
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.