COVID-19 case rates in Snohomish County have increased for the 11th week in a row as officials remain concerned about hospital capacity in the coming weeks.
The two-week average for the daily case rate per 100,000 people has reached 428 cases, more than triple the prior largest peak during the spring time.
As of early December, there were 52 active cases in Tulalip and 345 active cases in Arlington, which is more than at any other point of the pandemic.
As of Dec. 3 Marysville's case rate climbed to more than 450 cases per 100,000 people.
During a Dec. 8 briefing, Snohomish Health Officer Chris Spitters said the majority of the cases were in 20- to 49-year-olds with close contact with a known case.
"This means people are getting COVID from someone they know or from their family or in community settings like work, church or social settings," he said. "This is why we're seeing an increase in the number of outbreaks."
The county's outreach to COVID-19 patients has slowed because of the number of cases.
"The continued surge in cases and outbreaks combined with technical delays from the state has hampered our ability to get in touch with newly confirmed cases," said Spitters, although the county's contact numbers are still at the state average.
As of Dec. 10 there were 97 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19, with three more suspected to have COVID-19.
Fourteen individuals were experiencing respiratory failure. The death totals are now mirroring the death totals from the spring peak.
"Hospitalizations have been relatively stable over the last week or two," said Spitters. "While the lack of increase is slim relief, we really need to get that down to get our healthcare system back in shape."
The current number of cases is limiting hospital services.
"The problem is that the cases are still putting the acute care facilities under stress and limiting the other kinds of services those facilities can provide," said Spitters.
If the Thanksgiving weekend had an effect on the case rate it would still be a little early to see that, said Spitters. He expects if there is a rise we will begin to see those effects the week of Dec. 14.
With case rates continuing to increase, Spitters said he is in favor of continuing restriction measures.
"We haven't seen a dramatic bending of the curve because of those [restrictions]," said Spitters. "However, we don't have the counterfactual, meaning what would the curve look like if we hadn't imposed those restrictions."
As the U.S. Congress continues to debate a second coronavirus relief bill officials are still concerned about funding ending on Dec. 31.
"All the work we've talked about, the purchases of PPE, the distribution of that, the purchases of food from our farmers, getting that to families, storage and every effort we've taken on the last eight months has been made possible from the CARES Act funding dollars," said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. "We desperately need Congress to provide additional flexibility and resources."
Spitters said the pandemic is not going to be over anytime soon, so a second round of federal funding is needed.
"We obviously can't stop our efforts on Jan. 1. We have a long way to go and we need that federal assistance to keep continuing all these activities that are focused on the disease control effort," he said.
The number of individuals and families needing assistance continues to be a worry as well, said Somers.
"Those that are out of work, or working from home, have childcare needs, those that can't pay their rent, those populations are only going to grow," he said.
Snohomish County continues to plan for a vaccine and was chosen by the state Department of Health to run a mock vaccine distribution to provide a trial run.
"We appreciate your patience as we unveil the details as they become available to us," said Spitters.
Officials have put together an 'interim plan' for distribution.
The distribution of the vaccine is currently divided into multiple phases, with the first phase being provided to those deemed the highest priority, including the highest risk healthcare workers, long-term care facility staff and first responders.
The county's interim plan is available at the Snohomish Health District website at snohd.org/564.