After reaching a record peak in Snohomish County, COVID-19 cases have slowed slightly but remain at a very high level overall.
The county saw 1,634 new COVID cases in the week of Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, down just a bit from the 1,693 cases the previous week.
“We remain in a high transmission category according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s parameters,” said Chris Spitters, Snohomish Health District health officer during an Oct. 5 press briefing.
The COVID-19 two-week average daily case rate per 100,000 people is at 394, still higher than any point in the first, second or fourth waves of the pandemic in the county.
Hospitals were nearing their limit in previous weeks, but have not reached a crisis point.
“They remain struggling, but they’re coming down off a peak,” said Spitters.
In the week ending Oct. 2 there were 77 hospital beds used for COVID-19 patients, which represents a decrease from previous weeks which reached above 100.
Whether the downward trend will continue remains to be seen.
“Certainly the previous waves have come down in a similar fashion, so maybe that is the case going into the fall,” said Spitters. “Whether we come down a little bit and plateau or go down a lot, there is a prediction there will be another wave in December."
Hospital capacity could be stressed again if a COVID-19 wave comes at the same point as influenza season.
“We had a very light influenza season, basically none, last winter,” said Spitters.
The social distancing and masking measures meant to fight COVID likely reduced traditional influenza spread, he said.
“We do expect with people working, gathering, traveling again that we will see a flu season, and in sync with a COVID surge that could throw hospitals into a worse state than they have been recently,” said Spitters.
He encouraged everyone to get their flu vaccines this year, especially if they are an at-risk population.
The county also hit a big milestone with the COVID-19 vaccine, giving out their one millionth dose last week.
That means about 490,000 residents are fully vaccinated with 42,000 residents who have started the process.
Seventy-five percent of the eligible population have received at least one dose.
“We strongly recommend everyone who started to finish their series,” said Spitters.
Jason Biermann, Snohomish County director of emergency management, said that the county’s pandemic response group had begun downsizing before the delta variant but is still around.
“We do have more work to do, we still need folks to go out and get their shots,” he said.
The group is ready to begin new vaccination efforts if needed for younger kids or for a booster shot directive.
“We are looking at contingency plans as different groups of folks become eligible,” said Biermann.
Snohomish County officials also hope to look toward recovery and have recently hired Michael Fong to serve as the chief recovery and resiliency officer.
Fong previously has helped to organize Seattle’s recovery effort for the pandemic and will help the county distribute it’s funds it will receive from the 2021 federal pandemic relief bill.
“I really believe we have the opportunity to make significant and transformative investments to help everyone recover from the pandemic,” said Fong.
He believes that spending will include “major investments in the area of childcare, housing and behavioral health support.”
One of the signature projects that the County Executive’s office hopes to complete is a “one-stop” employment center.
“To ensure a family-friendly cross-sector approach to assist families who have suffered negative impacts because of COVID,” said Fong.
Those funds will also likely be given to local businesses.
“Expanding access to broadband, as well as direct, targeted support to small businesses,” said Fong.
More details about how the funds will be spent will be available in the coming months, he said.