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Health officer: Snohomish County ‘in serious jeopardy’ of rolling back to Phase 2

Snohomish County is at risk of being one of the next counties to roll back to Phase 2 of reopening when the state re-evaluates COVID-19 data on May 3.

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In order to remain in Phase 3, large counties need to have 200 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks and five or fewer hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the past week. As of Tuesday, Snohomish County has now crested one of those thresholds, sitting at 205 new cases per 100,000.

For new cases, the county has seen its numbers double in less than a month, increasing by over 250% since March’s low of 85 new cases per 100,000. The 950 cases the county saw for the week of April 4 also marked the highest single-week total Snohomish County has seen since the start of the fall and winter wave last November.

While it remains in compliance for hospitalizations for now, the county is approaching the limit with 4.6 per 100,000 residents for the week ending on April 10, and Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said Tuesday that he believes the region “is likely to exceed or approach” the five hospitalization benchmark by May 3.

“That puts us on the threshold, and in serious jeopardy of sliding back into Phase 2,” Dr. Spitters warned. “Unmitigated, these trends could land us back in Phase 1 not long thereafter.”

As for what’s causing these recent upticks, Dr. Spitters believes that an increase in unmasked large gatherings among community members is likely to blame.

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“A quick scan of social media feeds is a good qualitative indicator,” he described. “We’ve just got too many people getting together in gatherings with friends or family members who aren’t fully vaccinated, aren’t wearing masks, and aren’t keeping their distance.”

Snohomish County Health posted on Facebook Tuesday: “There have been many COVID outbreaks among youth sports teams. These outbreaks are putting the Snohomish community at risk and the county in danger of phase rollbacks.”

Despite all that, Spitters indicated that it may not be too late for Snohomish County to turn things around before May 3.

He recommends residents continue to mask up and avoid gathering with others outside of your household in large groups of unvaccinated people.

“If we start this approach right away and we do all these things well, I think we may have a reasonable chance of avoiding the tighter restrictions,” he said. “Going back a phase is painful and carries a heavy toll for many, but that’s where we’re headed in the next few weeks if these numbers don’t turn around. It’s happened before and it will happen again if we don’t change course.”

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