Health District calls on community for help to curb increasing COVID cases
Shared from the Snohomish Health District blog
As the most recent numbers show, COVID is still very much circulating throughout Snohomish County. The 2-week rolling case count through October 10 was nearly 72 per 100k. The Snohomish Health District has been receiving more than 60 new cases each day this week, with Thursday’s preliminary total of 114 new cases being the third highest day since the pandemic started.
It is fully anticipated that the case rate will increase significantly in next Monday’s update. There are some key takeaways from new cases that staff are asking the community to help mitigate:
- Approximately 1 in 5 confirmed cases do not respond to Health District staff’s attempts to reach them. It is important to respond to those calls. Public health wants to ensure you are well and taking proper steps to protect yourself and your circles.
- A growing number of cases are refusing to provide the Health District with names of their close contacts or locations visited while potentially contagious, or employers are hesitating to provide information on their employees. Not only is this a failure to comply with WAC 246-101 and Governor Inslee’s Proclamation (20-25.6), but it severely hampers the Health District’s ability to do contact tracing efforts needed to stop the spread of disease.
- The majority of new cases are the result of too many people in close settings, especially without face coverings. Even in limited social gatherings, people should still wear masks when around people outside of their household. People can be contagious up to two days before they start to feel any symptoms.
“Rather than people worrying about another ‘stay home’ period, it would really be a better use of everyone’s energy and efforts if we limit our social gatherings now and mask up,” said Shawn Frederick, administrative officer for the Snohomish Health District. “If we practice good social distancing and use masks when around people outside of our household, we don’t need to worry about the what-if’s. We absolutely have the ability to control this now with our individual efforts.”
SAFER GATHERINGS: THE COVID CHAT.
Whether you want to draw boundaries, are feeling tempted to push others out of their comfort zone, or just need some ways to figure out if an upcoming event meets your standards for safety, here’s some help.
- Respectfully say “no.” Saying “no” to people you love is never easy. Be clear, offer alternatives, and be honest. Don’t feel pressured to keep the conversation going.
- Respect others’ boundaries. Hearing “no” from family and friends can be hard. It helps to remember they feel bad too — no one enjoys turning down invitations. Show you care, and learn where they are coming from.
- Establish ground rules. To avoid surprises, hurt feelings, or situations where you feel unsafe, be sure to set expectations in advance. Be clear about your boundaries. Gather your thoughts, and consider alternative activities you could suggest. Keep responses simple, and don’t feel pressured to negotiate.
For more information and tips on having the COVID chat, visit coronavirus.wa.gov/gatherings.
WHAT TO EXPECT WITH SCHOOLS AND COVID
Some students have resumed in-person instruction under the statewide framework for a phased reopening of schools. While preventive efforts like face coverings, handwashing, screening for symptoms, distancing, and good ventilation can greatly reduce the likelihood of spreading COVID, the risk cannot be entirely eliminated in settings where people are together in person. This includes school and child care.
The Health District continues to partner with public and private schools throughout Snohomish County. Given the latest case rate of nearly 72 per 100,000, Dr. Chris Spitters provided guidance for schools to hold where they’re currently at. Many schools had plans underway to have some students return later this week or next week, so they were permitted to go ahead and continue with those plans if they wished. However, these should be focused specifically on K-3 and special needs students. Schools were asked to hold off plans to layer in beyond that for now.
Public health staff recognize how stressful this is for school leadership, their boards, families and staff, and the Health District is trying to avoid a yo-yoing of stop/start. This large uptick in case rates was higher than expected, but the Health District also is trying to balance the rising case rates with community impacts from continued remote learning.
It can be scary for students, parents or staff to hear that there may have been a case at school. The Health District published a new blog focused on some key things for parents and others to keep in mind. There is also a new fact sheet on what to expect if there’s a case in the school.
For more information on public health guidance to local schools, online tools include the School COVID-19 Case Response Flow Chart and the COVID-19 Screening Protocols. The Health District also has a webpage dedicated to schools, child cares, and youth sports.
UPDATE ON RACE AND ETHNICITY DATA
The Health District has completed another analysis of race and ethnicity as they relate to COVID-19 cases. For cases through October 5, race and ethnicity data comparisons are limited as only 54 percent of COVID-19 cases have race/ethnicity data available. This is either because it was not collected during the investigation, or the individual declined to share that information.
The analysis continues to show that non-White races and Hispanics are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. All non-White races and Hispanics have a significantly higher risk of COVID-19 infection compared to non-Hispanic whites. The highest case rate per 100,000 is seen in the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population with a relative-risk 11 times higher than non-Hispanic Whites. All-race Hispanics were the second highest rate of infection in Snohomish County, followed by African American, and American Indian/Alaska Native. Asians had a lower relative risk than other non-White races and was only slightly higher than non-Hispanic Whites.
More details are available in the report online.
VOTING AND COVID
The Snohomish Health District supports the Washington State Department of Health’s statement that voting is safe in Washington. Voting by mail doesn’t present a risk of spreading the virus as COVID mostly spreads through the air. It is safe to send in ballots by mail or a drop box.
For info on elections and voting in Snohomish County, visit https://snohomishcountywa.gov/224/elections-voter-registration.
DRIVE-THRU TESTING SCHEDULE
The Snohomish Health District will continue drive-thru testing at the 3900 Broadway site in Everett next week, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday. With daylight hours decreasing, and testing volumes seen earlier in the day, the Health District no longer offers evening testing appointments.
In addition to the Everett site, the Health District will also be offering testing at the Lynnwood Food Bank on Tuesday, October 20. Appointments will be available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 5320 176th St SW.
Testing remains strongly encouraged for individuals that fit the following criteria:
- Anyone with any of the following COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea); or
- Close contact of a confirmed case; or
- Anyone who lives or works in a congregate setting; or
- Work in healthcare, EMS, law enforcement or other fields where work settings have a higher risk of catching or spreading COVID-19; or
- Part of a family or social network that has had a case.
Registration is now open at www.snohd.org/testing. Insurance information is collected and the lab will bill insurance. There are no co-pays for COVID-19 testing through the Health District. If you do not have insurance, the test will be provided at no charge.
A phone line is available for test registration help, particularly those without internet access or needing language interpreter services. That number is (425) 258-8425, with calls returned from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday. This number is not for checking on test results.