FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2021
Heather Thomas, 425.508.4980
Celebrating the Fourth of July Safely
Fire dangers, hospital volumes and increasing variants of concern this holiday weekend
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – The extreme heat earlier this week was linked to surges in area hospital admissions and EMS call volumes that stretched resources to their limit and substantially affected operations. These dry conditions have also increased fire danger heading into the holiday. Residents and visitors are asked to avoid any unnecessary risks that could land them in the emergency room, start a fire, or otherwise add strain to the system.
It’s also important to know when to seek care and what type of care is best for the issue. The Snohomish Health District has shared tips here.
“Not only is this important to conserve limited surge capacity in healthcare and emergency response systems, but it also helps to ensure people truly needing emergency care can get treated quickly,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District.
Another way to help decrease demand across the healthcare system is to celebrate safely this weekend. While the state has reopened and there are no longer constraints on number of attendees and spacing, residents are encouraged to proceed cautiously, especially for those who are unvaccinated or have compromised immune systems.
If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated now. To find a location near you, visit www.snohd.org/covidvaccine.
“With last week’s uptick in cases and ongoing rapid emergence of the more contagious delta variant—including here in Snohomish County—it is best for us all to take it easy and play it safe,” added Dr. Spitters. “Meanwhile, we need to get more people in Snohomish County vaccinated to provide us all with more community-wide protection so we can prevent a resurgence of cases fueled by this variant.”
For those who are not yet eligible or who haven’t gotten the vaccine yet, wear a mask whenever you leave the house or are around people you don’t live with indoors. And vaccinated or not, if you don’t feel well, stay home. If one of your symptoms may be COVID-related, make sure to get tested as soon as possible.
Mask Up Until You VaxUp. Sometimes Even After.
The Secretary of Health’s mask order is still in place even after the June 30 reopening, which means that people who are not fully vaccinated need to continue to wear a face mask in public indoor settings even when things start to go back to normal as the state reaches a reopening milestone.
All people, regardless of vaccination status, are still required to wear masks in certain places, such as public transportation, schools and health care settings. In most other settings, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask.
However, the Secretary of Health’s mask order has been amended to say that no one is required to wear a mask outdoors. People who are unvaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings, such as at sporting events, fairs, parades, concerts, and similar settings where it’s harder to maintain physical distance. No one is required to wear a mask during outdoor sports practice or competition, while swimming or when engaged in water sports and recreation.
People who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask when in indoor public settings, as well as during indoor sports practices and competitions. There will be some limited exceptions that will be designated by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Details and future updates will be through the Governor’s Office and DOH websites.
The settings in which all people, including people who are fully vaccinated, are required to wear masks include:
- child care facilities, camps, K-12 schools, and other youth settings where children are present or expected to be present;
- health care settings, in accordance with CDC health care infection prevention and control recommendations;
- correctional facilities in areas where incarcerated individuals are present or expected to be present;
- homeless shelters in areas where individuals being served are present or expected to be present; and
- public transportation and transportation hubs, including airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations. Note that the Health District supports transportation agencies excluding or disembarking riders who decline to wear a mask.
Masking helps protect those who are unvaccinated, including children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and others with auto-immune or other conditions that reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. Children younger than two years old should not wear masks.
Parents should be reminded that there is real risk to unvaccinated children from COVID-19. Approximately 500 hospitalizations for COVID that have occurred among Washington State’s children should be motivation enough. This is along with the real, but less quantified, risk of post-COVID conditions occurring among pediatric cases with varying levels of severity. Children that are 12 or older should be vaccinated. For more information on COVID and vaccination in children, visit www.washington.edu/populationhealth/vaccinesymposium/.
Businesses and local authorities can set their own more protective mask requirements, even though some state restrictions are being lifted. That’s why people are encouraged to respect the rules of the room you’re in, since those rules may change depending on where you are. The Health District supports enterprises that choose to continue requiring masking by all patrons rather than vetting vaccination status. Guidance for employers is available on the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website.
District Awarded Federal Grant to Fight COVID-19 and Improve Health Literacy
The Snohomish Health District was one of 73 awardees in the country to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH). Funding ranged from $800,000 to $4 million, with the District receiving the maximum award.
The Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 grant is part of a $250 million two-year initiative to identify and implement best practices for improving health literacy in order to enhance COVID-19 vaccination and other public health mitigation practices among underserved populations.
“The Advancing Health Literacy initiative is a vital part of the HHS efforts to help communities hardest hit by the pandemic access and understand COVID-related information,” said Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Rachel L. Levine, M.D. “This funding, and the partnerships with local and community entities across the country, will help our national efforts to continue to tackle health disparities surrounding COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and treatment.”
Health literacy is a person’s ability to find, understand and use information and services to help them make health-related decisions for themselves and others. Health literacy is a central focus of the Healthy People 2030 blueprint for improving the health of the nation, which is sponsored by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Healthy People 2030 has elevated health literacy within one of its overarching goals: Eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all.
“COVID-19 highlights the importance of health literacy, of understanding public health measures and taking steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, RADM Felicia Collins, M.D. “Our new health literacy initiative will help local governments enhance their health literacy efforts to reduce COVID-related disparities within racial and ethnic minority populations and other vulnerable communities.”
The $4 million grant will support the Snohomish County Advancing Health Literacy Project, an effort to use evidence-based and culturally appropriate health literacy strategies to enhance COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, vaccination, and other public health prevention measures. A large focus will be supporting racial and ethnic minority populations and other socially vulnerable populations, including diverse language communities and seniors in Snohomish County.
“We are thrilled to be receiving this grant and partnering with Bastyr University, Edmonds College, Snohomish County and Sno-Isle Libraries for the project,” said Dr. Spitters. “Not only will this help bolster capacity and grow health literacy expertise within all of our organizations, but the work we do over the next two years will have lasting impacts beyond COVID-19 that will benefit all of Snohomish County.”
In addition to the project partners, the funding will provide training and resources around health literacy for a variety of networks. These include hospitals, clinics, federally qualified health centers, pharmacies, managed care organizations, early learning, K-12 schools, higher education, government agencies, fire/EMS, employers, and the media.
Health District COVID Testing Site Closures and Schedule Modifications
Both testing sites will be closed July 3-5 in observance of Independence Day weekend. The schedule for the remainder of next week is as follows:
- Everett site located at 3715 Oakes Avenue – Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Lynnwood Food Bank site at 5320 176th St SW – open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 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.