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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 4, 2020
CONTACT: Heather Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Cases in Snohomish County continue to surge, with the latest two-week case rate at 368 per 100,000 residents through November 28. Hospitalizations have been hovering in the high-80s to low-90s each day, and the number of deaths has continued to increase.
Also concerning is the number of long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks. As of December 2, there were 44 ongoing outbreaks in these facilities involving approximately 500 cases.
For these reasons, the Snohomish Health District has recommended that all long-term care facilities in Snohomish County to immediately follow Phase 1 of the Long-term Care Safe Start Plan until further notice or superseded by more restrictive guidance from state or federal regulators. This also applies to skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, adult family homes, enhanced service facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and certified community residential services and supports.
This Phase 1 framework is designed for heightened infection control in these vulnerable settings during periods of widespread virus transmission in the community and potential for healthcare system limitations. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has created FamHelp, with tools for families of residents in long-term care.
Beginning the week of December 7, the Health District will again increase the number of its testing sites to five locations with varying schedules. The locations and schedules for next week are as follows:
Testing is by appointment only and registration is now open 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. 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.
Testing is open to anyone, regardless of symptoms, but remains strongly encouraged for individuals that fit the following criteria:
Multiple vaccine candidates are on track to be authorized for use in the U.S. by the end of the year. Planning efforts have been underway for months at the state and local level to get ready.As Snohomish County faces an alarming third wave of COVID, the prospect of a vaccine is generating a lot of interest. Some people are eager to get vaccinated, while others are concerned about the process or the vaccine in general. Last Tuesday, the Snohomish Health District and Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management published the local interim COVID-19 vaccination plan online. Anyone can see the plan on our Preventing COVID-19 webpage. The statewide plan also is available online.
Note that vaccination will not be available to the general public for several months. Initial limited supplies of vaccine will be directed toward COVID-facing healthcare system employees, as well as staff and residents of long-term care facilities. As the supply increases and vaccination of these groups is completed, vaccination of critical infrastructure and medically vulnerable groups will occur, then broader coverage of the general population will be pursued. Further details are laid out in those interim plans, which may be adjusted based upon final guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices expected later this month. This is a good time to start learning more about COVID vaccine. We want the people of Snohomish County to feel confident and make informed decisions about this key step in addressing the pandemic. To help, the Health District published a new blog this week.
It is important to remember that while the candidate vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 (protection appears to be on the order of 90-95%), the impact on reducing community transmission is highly likely but not yet proven. This means that everyone will need to continue standard COVID-19 prevention measures—even those who get vaccinated—until the broader community’s vaccination effort is completed and we have resolved the local epidemic. That will likely be sometime next summer or fall.
DOH has launched WA Exposure Notifications—or WA Notify. It uses smartphones to alert users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. It is completely private and doesn’t know or track who you are or where you go. Please enable WA Notify on your smart phone today.
After enabling WA Notify, a smartphone exchanges random, anonymous codes with the phones of people that are near who have also enabled WA Notify.
The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to exchange these random codes without revealing any information about individuals. WA Notify is based on Google Apple Exposure Notification technology, which was designed to safeguard user privacy.
The system never collects or shares any location data or personal information with Google, Apple, the Washington State Department of Health or other users. Participation is entirely voluntary, and users can opt in or out at any time.
If another WA Notify user you've been near in the last two weeks later tests positive for COVID-19 and adds their verification code to the app, you’ll get an anonymous notification that you’ve had a possible exposure.
This lets you get the care you need quickly and helps prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to the people around you.
Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit.
Models based in parts of Washington show that even a small number of people using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths.
Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify is another tool to help us prevent the spread of COVID-19. Learn more at www.WANotify.org.