The Snohomish County COVID case rate hit a record high as officials warn that local hospitals are nearing their capacity.

A total of 1,868 cases were reported in Snohomish County during the week of Aug. 30 to Sept. 5.

That brings the two-week average of the daily case rate up to 464 per 100,000 people, just above the previous high of 462 per 100,000 people that occurred in the county last December.

The county’s case rate began rapidly increasing this July and slowed in late August and September, but is still increasing.

The last week the case rate went down instead of up was in late June.

“Hospitals are still under tremendous strain throughout the state, region and county. In Snohomish County there are 107 COVID in-patients currently,” said Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters during a Sept. 7 press briefing.

County Executive Dave Somers said local hospitals are feeling the pressure of the high case rates.

“I spoke with the leadership at Providence Everett last week and they expressed their highest level of concern they’ve had since, frankly, the pandemic started,” he said. “They were essentially at capacity and had to add some temporary capacity. They were able to get some additional healthcare help, at high cost, they said."

Hospitals in northern Idaho began crisis standards of care last week, meaning that hospital beds and care may be given to those most likely to survive rather those in the most critical conditions.

That could mean patients from those hospitals come to Washington state, although the state’s hospitals are not obligated to accept them.

Spitters said local hospitals are not that far off from that point.

“Things are really getting stretched, especially with the number needing ICU care,” he said. “If things keep going up I feel that it is inevitable."

There has been a significant increase in the number of local ICU patients over the last week.

“ICU isolation rooms are running at 95 percent capacity and the other ICU rooms are running at about 80 to 90 percent capacity,” said Spitters. “Most of the people ending up in the ICU are indeed unvaccinated."

About 56 percent of Snohomish County’s population is vaccinated, with about 200,000 eligible individuals who have not started the process.

In addition, there are about 125,000 children under the age of 12 who are not yet able to begin vaccination.

Somers said the vaccine will not fully protect you from COVID, but the nuance of the message is difficult to communicate.

“Certainly you’re much better off if your vaccinated than not,” he said.

“I’m sympathetic with healthy skepticism and understand some people’s hesitation, I think we’re far enough into the vaccination effort to feel sure though,” said Spitters.

Vaccines are widely available now and there has been an increase in the number of county residents starting the process.

“About a month ago the number of new vaccine starters had declined down to 3,000 a week, and since then it’s come up to about 6,000 per week,” said Spitters. “That’s still a small percentage of the total eligible though."

Spitters recommends people also continue wearing masks indoors and outdoors if you are in a large crowd.

The county is considering an outdoor mask mandate to match King County’s order.

“There’s certainly some merit in it. It’s been shown that large outdoor venues and other places around the country have reported large numbers of cases that occurred outdoors,” said Spitters. “Issuing a similar directive or order is under consideration in Snohomish County."

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