Snohomish County COVID-19 briefing: As numbers spike, there’s no shortcut to ending pandemic, officials say

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Chief Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters provide an update Tuesday on COVID-19 numbers in the county.

COVID-19 : the numbers and the frustration. Those are the takeaways from this week’s Snohomish County coronavirus briefing.

Here’s the county’s COVID-19 picture by the numbers, as shared Tuesday:

• 122 cases per 100,000 residents (the rate of new coronavirus cases)

• Up 20% since the last count.

• That’s 1,000 new cases in a two-week period.

• 29 patients now hospitalized and numbers are rising.

• 50 patients were infected in a Monroe long-term care facility.

• The long-term patient case load is three times what it was a week ago.

• Cases are spiking in all age groups.

“It’s really not somebody else’s problem,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “Every one of us has the solution, as we’ve been saying for six months now.” That was an opinion echoed by County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters: “There is no place in the county that is low risk and no group considered low risk.”

The only time county officials have seen case rates this high, added Spitters, was during the first wave of the virus this spring.

The county won’t say which long-term care facility in Monroe is experiencing the 50-case outbreak. But Spitters said the facility “…appears to be doing everything by the book, but still the virus is making its way around… we don’t have a smoking gun on how it started.”

Both officials said there are no new county plans to issue more restrictions and they are not aware of any the state might impose. They said it’s unlikely that any development other than a surge in hospitalizations would prompt new restrictions.

Somers added that he is “extremely frustrated that much of the debate about COVID has been turned into a political debate, which creates a lot of confusion and distrust.”

Spitters said: “I don’t think the virus is aware of our political situation; it just really wants to infect us.” He warned that there is no shortcut to ending the pandemic, with many months until a vaccine is ready, and he predicted nine-12 more months of protective measures ahead.

One bright spot in Tuesday’s picture: It’s possible that the county will get 10,000 to 15,000 “rapid” virus tests from the state to add to its current testing supply. The tests are described as simple and fast, but not quite as accurate as lab-based tests. The fast tests, said Spitters, only identify about six of every 10 COVID cases. The county has yet to work out a distribution plan, but the state has sent those tests to commercial health centers, tribal health facilities and rural health centers.

— By Bob Throndsen

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