FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2022
Heather Thomas, 425.508.4980
Working Together to Ease the Strain on the Healthcare System
Reminders on when to seek testing or care, and when to hold off
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WA – Snohomish County, like many parts of the state, is experiencing historic surges in testing and confirmed cases. There were more than 5,500 new cases reported last week, resulting in the rolling two-week case rate soaring from 496 to 997 per 100,000 residents through January 1.
This surge is evident even with reduced testing opportunities with many clinics closed due to holidays and winter weather. It is estimated that many more have been infected but have not been reported because people did not or could not get tested.
“These are new records for local data, but I suspect we’ll see significant increases again next week, and more in the weeks to come,” shared Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District.
Hospitalizations have more than quadrupled in recent weeks. On December 24, there were 34 Snohomish County hospital beds dedicated to COVID patients. By December 30, that number was up to 56. As of January 7, there were 143 individuals hospitalized due to COVID. That exceeds the previous high of 128 patients hospitalized in December 2020.
Our healthcare system in Snohomish County, and the region, is stretched to the max. All available appointments for testing are taken, with many providers booking out 1-2 weeks. Walk-in clinics are seeing wait times exceeding several hours. Most or all non-urgent procedures are again being canceled as hospitals have dozens of people waiting for beds.
“We continue to ask more and more of them,” said Dr. Spitters said of the healthcare system. “They’re tapped out and we are on the brink of a very dangerous situation.”
Dr. Spitters joined chief medical officers from hospitals and healthcare systems across Snohomish County in sharing an urgent message.
VIDEO: Joint message from Snohomish County’s top doctors
(Read the transcript)
Here is where our community can step up and relieve the burden:
- Avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings. This is especially true if you or your close contacts are older or have underlying health conditions that increase the risk of hospitalization. If meetings and events can be postponed or moved to a virtual environment, please do so. If you have to go, keep gatherings well-ventilated, spaced out, short, and fully masked.
- Upgrade your masks. With the incredibly high transmission of omicron, it’s time to step up the masks being worn. A cloth mask is better than no mask, but it would be better to wear a disposable medical mask underneath it. An even better option is to switch to wearing N95, KN95 or KN94 masks that are well fitting and secure. Make sure the nose and mouth are covered with little to no gaps. Don’t pull down the mask to talk, cough or sneeze as that defeats the purpose of the masks.
- Do not go to the emergency room or urgent care for COVID testing unless you are severely ill (e.g., trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone). Older adults and people with underlying chronic medical conditions should consult their healthcare provider if symptoms of COVID occur.
- If you don’t need a test for medical purposes, please hold off. Step aside so people with medical need for testing can get one. Testing in the healthcare system is being prioritize for those with symptoms and, where resources permit, people exposed to a confirmed case. The Health District is working with state and federal partners to increase testing capacity in the coming weeks, but it will take some time and even then, it may not meet all the demand for testing that is out there right now. If you need a test for travel, visit SeaTac International Airport’s page or look for private businesses that specialize in travel testing. If testing is wanted but not available for elective or recreational activities like travel, entertainment, or gatherings, consider cancelling your participation or attendance.
- If you’re not feeling well, stay home. If there are any new or unusual symptoms that develop, play it safe and stay home. Flu (influenza) has started circulating, and other viruses going around, too. If you are generally healthy, but think you may have COVID, the current surge on limited testing and lab capacity means you will have to assume you have it and isolate at home.
- Don’t wait for public health to call you. The extraordinarily high number of cases have outstripped case investigation and contact tracing capacity, so most infected people and their contacts will not be reached. If you test positive or are a close contact, follow isolation and quarantine guidance. Some employers may have more stringent requirements than these; check with your workplace on return-to-work criteria. Please make sure to alert your child care, school, employer and any contacts that you have tested positive or are in quarantine.
- Save the ER and urgent care for emergencies only. If it’s not an urgent medical condition, consider a telehealth or virtual visit. You may also be able to communicate with your provider or care team through MyChart or a similar portal. However, don’t delay if it’s a true medical emergency. These are things like chest pains, trouble breathing, signs of a stroke, new confusion, loss of consciousness or lips turning blue. Seek care immediately or call 911. That’s what the healthcare is there for, and what we’re trying to preserve capacity for.
“The next month or so will likely be rough on everyone,” added Dr. Spitters. “Things are changing rapidly so be ready for—and don’t be surprised by—frequent updates in guidance as this evolves. Virtually everyone should expect to be inconvenienced by this.”
To stay updated, please monitor the Health District’s social media channels and www.snohd.org/covid.
District vaccine and testing clinic schedule
Vaccination appointments, including booster doses, are available for those 12+ at the Ash Way Park & Ride site Wednesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The testing schedule for next week is as follows:
- Testing at the Everett site located at 3715 Oakes Avenue is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- The Ash Way Park & Ride location at 16327 Ash Way in Lynnwood is typically open for testing Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Appointments for testing are available at www.snohd.org/testing and vaccine appointments at www.snohd.org/drivethru.
Those without internet access, needing language assistance, or requiring additional support in scheduling can reach the Health District’s call center at 425.339.5278 to schedule a testing or vaccine appointment. Callers after hours or on holidays or weekends can leave a message, which will be returned on the next business day.