“Shots in the arm is our most urgent priority,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in the weekly COVID briefing Tuesday.
There is some good news on that. The county is getting 17,000 doses of COVID vaccine this week; four times as much as it received last week.
And that was the biggest takeaway from the briefing with Somers and County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters. Among the highlights:
- The county will set up a fourth drive-thru vaccine site.
- New case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are down slightly.
- The UK variant of COVID has now shown up in two county residents.
In the latest state COVID data, Snohomish County ranked only 28th of the 39 counties in the number of vaccine doses given per 10,000 residents; well behind King, Pierce and Spokane counties. Why so low? “Supply, supply, supply,” Spitters told reporters. Somers echoed that, saying the county was not getting an equitable supply of vaccine. He added that officials were in contact with the state when they saw the low dose numbers compared to other counties. “We needed to be a squeaky wheel, and we are squeaking loudly,” he added, to get a fair share.
The 17,000 doses will be split: 45% are going to the three drive-thru sites, at Edmonds College, Paine Field and the Monroe fairgrounds. 55% will go to health care facilities countywide. You can check on availability for the drive-thru sites here: snohomish-county-coronavirus-response-snoco-gis.hub.arcgis.com/pages/covid-19-vaccine.
For those without computer or internet access, the Snohomish Health District call center is available to help with appointments. Call 425-339-5278.
The county also plans to add a fourth drive-thru vaccination site. As capacity ramps up, and if the supply increases, Somers says the system could vaccinate 50,000 people a week. In 20 weeks, by the end of May, Somers says everyone in the county who wants a shot could get one.
What about getting that “second” dose? The Pfizer vaccine requires a second shot after three weeks; the Moderna vaccine a second shot four weeks after the first. Spitters says second doses are ordered separately and go directly to the health care providers and mass inoculation sites. He added that that no second dose vaccine is “being saved.”
He suggests people work with the site that gave them their first shot for an appointment for the second one. Those who went to the county drive-thru sites, says Spitters, will get an email alert to let them know when they can get the followup. He says it will be as close as possible to the exact date but acknowledges it could be slightly delayed. That, says Spitters, should not change the effectiveness of the dose.
Asked about those who don’t want to get vaccinated, Spitters said, “I don’t see in our forecast forcing anyone to be vaccinated.” The county says it will reach out to communities that may have cultural or religious concerns about the vaccines, to make sure they know the benefits and risks. The county may schedule “pop-up” sessions or meet directly with some groups. “We don’t want anyone to avoid the vaccine out of fear,” added Spitters. He says 75-80% of the county must be vaccinated to achieve what he calls “herd immunity” to stop the virus.
Snohomish County was the first in the state to identify patients with the new UK variant of the virus, and now has two confirmed cases. Both have recovered, were not hospitalized and were either asymptomatic or showed only mild symptoms. Spitters said the presence of the variant is “not an alarm bell, no reason for us to be alarmed.” He admitted the variant does spread more readily, is slightly more infectious and may become the dominant strain of COVID. Asked what he thought about federal virus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said the UK variant appears to cause more damage and death, Spitters told reporters that Fauci has more access to data than he does. He acknowledged that some UK scientists suggest it may be more severe.
The data that could allow Snohomish County to open up further shows good trends. Somers told reporters that “we’re getting to be in a pretty good place.” The number of new cases per 100,000 residents has dropped from 376 to 253 for the most recent two weeks. That’s the lowest average since mid-November. Hospitalizations are now half what they were two weeks ago. Deaths continue to decline, but we are still losing two to three people a week. He added that if the trends continue, the county will ask to be split off from the region that now includes King and Pierce counties and seek state permission to relax our COVID restrictions.
— By Bob Throndsen