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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 10, 2021
CONTACT: Heather Thomas, email@example.com
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, issued a new masking directive today. Effective August 12, everyone 5 years of age and up in Snohomish County must wear a face covering within indoor public spaces.
This directive applies to indoor spaces that are open to the public, including retail, grocery stores, government buildings, and other businesses and places where members of the public can enter freely. It does not apply to indoor non-public spaces, including businesses, offices, and other places of employment with limited access. Employers in those settings should continue to follow current guidance and requirements from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries on worker safety.
“I strongly urge all people in Snohomish County to voluntarily comply with this directive, and likewise direct all businesses that are open to the public to continue implementing policies and practices to ensure that their customers and employees wear face masks,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “We need everyone to take these steps in order to protect the health of our neighbors, customers, workers, and families.”
Requiring nearly everybody to wear masks indoors again is necessary for Snohomish County to curb the alarming growth in COVID-19 cases, a virtual press conference was told Tuesday.
Reported cases over the past three weeks have doubled, from 651 new cases for the week ending July 24 compared to 1,300 cases reported for the week ending August 7. These figures also represent a nearly 400 percent increase in weekly case reports since July 1. Furthermore, the rolling two-week case rate through August 7 was 280 cases per 100,000, exceeding the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold of 200 to be designated as a high transmission county.
“Last week we had more than 600 close contacts identified in child care facilities alone, and at least 15 long-term care facilities currently have at least one confirmed case,” noted Dr. Spitters. “We’ve also seen our testing sites around the county see some of the highest volumes and positivity rates to date. Our situation is quite alarming and we must act now.”
Meanwhile, hospitals continue to see increases in new COVID patients on top of the recent surge of hospitalizations for non-COVID conditions. As of August 10, 64 people are hospitalized with COVID in Snohomish County hospitals, including four on ventilators. That number has tripled since July 24, when just 22 were hospitalized. Intensive care units in the county are operating at 90 percent capacity or higher, leaving little room for additional COVID or non-COVID care.
Vaccines are our best tool against COVID-19. In July, case reports and hospitalization rates for vaccinated people were about one-tenth of the rates in unvaccinated people.
Unfortunately, only 54 percent of Snohomish County’s total population has completed vaccination. This means there are nearly a quarter million individuals who are eligible but have not started vaccination, along with the 125,000 children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible.
There is some good news. Snohomish County did note an increase in people initiating vaccination during the first week of August. During that week, 4,500 new people received their first dose, which was up from roughly 3,000 weekly in previous weeks.
“While this is encouraging, the surge in cases because of the delta variant shows that we need to move faster,” added Dr. Spitters. “Everyone who is eligible should get vaccinated now, but that will take weeks to prevent cases. Wearing a mask now will help us prevent transmission of the disease now. We really need to be thinking now in terms of vaccination and masking in public rather than vaccination or masking.”
For more information about the COVID vaccine, including where to find a clinic near you, visit www.snohd.org/covidvaccine.