EVERETT — Snohomish County is racing to vaccinate as many people as possible as a recent rise in cases could foreshadow a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
In the two-week case count ending Saturday, the county recorded 92 new infections per 100,000 residents. Last week, it was 72 cases per 100,000.
“This is exactly the wrong direction to be going,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said during a Tuesday media briefing. “We just had a Phase 3 reopening. I do not want to see a rollback.”
The uptick mirrors what’s happening across the state, nation and world as social activity increases amid rising vaccination rates. Now public health leaders are pleading with people to mask up and practice social distancing for a little bit longer.
“We’re probably just a few months away from putting the emergency situation behind us,” Snohomish Health District officer Dr. Chris Spitters said during Tuesday’s media briefing. “It’s really premature to cash in on the success we’ve had so far.”
On Wednesday, another 30,000 county residents will join the line for vaccines as the state expands eligibility to everyone in Phase 1B, including restaurant staff, construction workers, those 60 to 64 and people with two or more health conditions.
But there’s nothing to stop anyone with an ID from getting a dose at one of the county’s mass vaccination sites.
On Friday, the state Department of Health announced it is shutting down it’s online phase finder tool, www.FindYourPhaseWa.org, effective Wednesday.
Going forward, staff at the county’s mass vaccination clinics will no longer require proof of eligibility for patients, though they’re still asking people to honor the state’s phases.
“Without that tool, and given the variety of people who are now eligible based on health, age, employment, or living situation, it is no longer practical for the vaccine task force to perform spot checks of eligibility as people arrive for first dose appointments at the mass vaccination sites,” the health district said in a news release. “Everyone is strongly urged to follow the phased approach to vaccination. If you are not eligible, you should not sign up for an appointment at this time.”
The move will certainly lead to more people jumping the line to get vaccinated, despite universal eligibility coming no later than May 1.
Until then, officials are asking younger Washingtonians to save the doses for those at higher risk to severe disease and death.
Countywide, 125,000 people are fully vaccinated, with another 87,000 waiting for a second dose.
On average, providers in the county are administering about 30,000 to 35,000 doses each week. Officials hope that number will soon reach 50,000 to 60,000 a week.