Snohomish County saw another week of decreasing COVID cases and continuing challenges with vaccine supply.
The two-week average for the daily case rate dropped to its lowest since mid-October. It was the third week straight of decreasing COVID cases locally.
“The case rate dropped yet again down to 184, more than 50 percent off of the peek several weeks ago,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer with the Snohomish Health District during a Feb. 2 press briefing.
Other indicators also fell during that time.
“Hospitalizations, long-term care cases, long-term care outbreaks and deaths are also decreasing,” said Spitters.
As of Feb. 5, hospitalizations were down to 46 confirmed COVID cases.
Snohomish County, along with King and Pierce counties, entered Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-opening plan on Feb. 1 because of decreasing case rates.
“This easing of restrictions is good for our economy, our children’s education, and so many social and health needs in our community,” said Spitters. “We know this is welcome news to small-business owners, schools and the county at large."
The relaxation of rules does not mean that people can stop the normal social distancing measures though, said Spitters.
“Everyone must be diligent with following all the precautions to minimize the risk of exposure and transmission,” he said. “I recognize that people may be stir crazy, have cabin fever, call it what you want. They’re tired of staying home and mostly being alone or with the people they live with."
The guidelines still say a maximum of five people outside the household meeting indoors or a maximum of 15 people outside the household meeting outside.
As case numbers drop, the vaccine rollout continues locally.
The county and the Health District have five mass vaccination sites up that could be open.
“I have to emphasize ‘could be available’ because we don’t have the vaccine supply to keep all of those open,” said Jason Biermann, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.
From Feb. 1 to 5, three sites were not opened due to lack of availability, although they remain available to reopen once more vaccine doses are available.
“One of those sites is ready to go but we haven’t even opened it yet,” said Biermann. “I can’t emphasize enough how much is contingent on the availability of vaccines."
The county wants to have the capacity for 50,000 vaccines per week. In addition to the county’s mass vaccine sites, 93 healthcare providers have been approved to administer the vaccine in the county.
About 61,000 people have received the first dose of the vaccine and about 30,000 have received both doses.
The week of Jan. 25 the county received about 17,000 vaccine doses and they expected to receive about 15,000 doses the week of Feb. 1, said Spitters.
The county receives their doses from the state Department of Health, which received about 90,000 doses the week of Jan. 25.
“They have to spread them around to do what is going to do the most good for the public health of the state .Do we want more vaccines? You bet. We want enough to fill up those 50,000 slots,” said Spitters.
The order of who is eligible for the vaccine continues to be debated.
“Every day, including from the teachers, we get compelling and rational arguments from various sectors about the potential benefits for that sector of society of changing the order of prioritization,” said Spitters.
The current order was chosen based on a matter of equity, vulnerability to COVID-19 and to protect essential workers, among other considerations.
“That work has already been done. I support the structure that is there. I understand that not everyone is as high as they would like to be and they feel frustrated,” said Spitters. “These are difficult questions which reasonable minds will differ."
The county has also had to be less than transparent when distributing their share of the vaccine as well.
“For security reasons we have been blurring where vaccines will show up, because we want to preserve order and access at those sites for people who are there to get vaccines, as well as people who are there for other services,” said Spitters. “I understand the desire on the one hard for transparency and on the other hand for the facilities to not get inundated or face security threats."
More information about when vaccines will be available to you is available at findyourphasewa.org.