COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise

A new exposure notification app is here, and vaccines are on the way, but the virus continues to surge.

EVERETT — Key COVID-19 metrics keep getting worse in Snohomish County, and local leaders expect statewide restrictions to last through the coming holidays, even as the state gets closer to securing vaccine doses.

As of Tuesday, at least 89 people were in county hospitals due to the virus, with nine requiring ventilators to breathe, according to Snohomish Health District data.

The rolling case count reached 368 new infections per 100,000 people in the 14-day period ending Saturday. Last week, it was 300.

Meanwhile, deaths, cases at long-term care homes, and workplace outbreaks are also rising, Dr. Chris Spitters, the county’s health officer, said during Tuesday’s weekly media briefing.

Although Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest restrictions on businesses are set to expire Dec. 14, they will likely be extended beyond the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, County Executive Dave Somers told reporters Tuesday.

“If we don’t see mitigation in our case numbers and don’t see an improvement in the hospital capacity, which is becoming ever more concerning, it would seem unwise for us to reopen what has been closed down at a time when we’re not seeing the fruits of that effort,” Spitters said.

Across the county, there are outbreaks at 40 long-term care homes.

And the number of deaths per week has risen from one to three in August and September to 13 two weeks ago.

But help is on the way.

On Monday, the state rolled out WA Notify, a new tool to identify COVID exposures. And early shipments of COVID vaccines will soon reach Snohomish County.

WA Notify is an app that uses Bluetooth technology to alert people if they have been exposed to the virus.

As of Tuesday morning, the app exceeded 700,000 users statewide, Amy Reynolds, a state Department of Health spokesperson said.

If someone tests positive for COVID, they are given an anonymous code to enter into their phone. Then everyone who was around that person for a significant period of time is alerted that they may have been exposed to the virus.

WA Notify does not say where, when or by whom they were potentially exposed.

“Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify is another tool to help us prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Spitters said. “It is an add-on, a parallel enhancement of the overall contact notification strategy.”

The app came online just weeks before Washington was expected to receive its first shipment of COVID vaccines.

The state could get more than 60,000 doses by Dec. 14 or 15, officials have said, with a total of 200,000 by the end of the month.

The Department of Health has already approved more than 100 providers to receive and distribute vaccine doses, state health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy told state lawmakers Tuesday.

Another 500 sites are in the process of enrolling as vaccine distributors, she said.

It’s unclear how many of the early doses will be coming to Snohomish County.

Last week, the Snohomish Health District released a draft of its vaccine plan, which outlines which groups will get the early doses. They include high-risk health care workers, long-term care home residents, people over 65 with health conditions and first responders.

The two vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, both require people to receive two doses, separated by three to four weeks.

It will take two to three months to vaccinate everyone in the first phase, Spitters said, and about six to nine months to make doses widely available.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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