Snohomish County had about 80,000 more people eligible for the coronavirus vaccine as recovery efforts continue in the county.
Officials discussed the latest on vaccine efforts during a press briefing on March 16.
The state has moved to Phase 1B2 of their vaccination plan, bringing in new groups that can now sign up for vaccine appointments.
“This includes women age 16 or older and who are pregnant, as well as people who are 16 or older and have a disability that puts them at risk,” said Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters.
Those disabilities include but are not limited to Down syndrome, developmental disabilities, other intellectual disabilities, hearing impairment, blindness or low vision.
Those who are high-risk critical workers are also eligible for the vaccine now.
“This is for people who if they’re at work and they can’t really do the physical distancing that we would like to see,” said Spitters. “And for those who work with the public for at least three hours during a 24 hour period."
Industries included in this phase include agriculture, fishing vessels, food processing, grocery store workers, food bank workers, prison and jail staff, courts of law, public transit and any remaining first responders who have not yet received the vaccine.
Recently, Gov. Jay Inslee also moved all teachers and school staff up in the phases to be eligible.
Those who are not sure if they are eligible can find out more information or sign up for updates at findyourphasewa.org.
With all the new residents eligible there is an additional estimated 80,000 people who can now receive the vaccine and an estimated 70,000 people who are still eligible from previous phases that have not received the vaccine.
The county received about 11,000 of the first dose last week.
“That means you have roughly a 1 in 15 chance this week of getting an appointment if you are eligible,” said Spitters. “With each successive week those chances will increase and ultimately we will get to everyone."
Demand is still much higher than the number of vaccine doses the county is receiving.
“Unfortunately our allocation numbers are not keeping pace with our ambition and our capacity to administer the vaccine,” said Spitters.
About 15 percent of those who have received their first dose have not returned for a second dose.
Those who get just one dose still receive substantial resistance to the COVID-19 virus and those who have not yet returned for a second dose can get it even if it is later than the 21 or 28 days recommended between doses.
The vaccine is one part of the recovery efforts and Snohomish County officials also hope a new package of local funds will support those efforts.
On March 15 the Snohomish County Council approved a number of budget expenditures to continue programs that help those in need.
There will be an additional $1 million given to businesses who already applied for grants but were not able to get funding in earlier rounds.
“We’re not reopening the application process, but we have a number of businesses that weren’t funded the first time around,” said County Executive Dave Somers. “We’re going to work off of our existing list."
The ‘Nourishing Neighborhoods’ program, which connected local farm food to 15 locations across the county will continue as part of the funding as well.
“We really established those to provide food for our most at-risk neighborhoods,” said Somers.
A total of $1.5 million is meant to support food security programs, such as “resources to local pantries and pop-up food banks to continue partnering with school districts,” said Somers.
Another $1.5 million is meant to support emergency childcare for essential workers.
“This really contributes to Snohomish County’s recovery and economic development by allowing childcare workers to stay at their jobs,” said Somers.
Reopening of businesses and schools continue to be possible in large part because of continued decreasing cases.
The two-week average daily case rate dropped to 71 per 100,000 people, decreasing every week since the middle of December.
So far, the opening of schools using hybrid models and safety precautions has not caused much spread of the COVID-19 virus, said Spitters.
“The number of cases in childcare and schools is still relatively low,” he said.
There are four facilities that have two or more cases and 21 facilities with just one case and the rest have zero, he said.
“This is a good signal that the parents, the students, the staff and faculty are engaging in those prevention measures,” said Spitters.
Spitters thanked everyone for their efforts to keep virus transmission in the county low and encouraged people to continue their precautions.
“The lower we can get this incidence the longer leeway we have to get vaccination out before the next wave may come,” he said.