Washington Secretary of Health Umair Shah. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Secretary of Health Umair Shah. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

‘Critical time’: 101 hospitalized here, 25 on ventilators

As people gather over the holiday weekend, officials warn the health care system is in critical condition.

EVERETT — Heading into Labor Day weekend, Snohomish County — in fact, most of Washington — logged some of the most alarming COVID-19 metrics of the pandemic.

Infection rates are high, hospitalizations are rising and deaths are continuing to mount. Collectively, hospitals and health care providers are getting pushed to their limits.

“We are absolutely at a critical time in our health care system,” state Secretary of Health Umair Shah said during a Thursday media briefing. “There is a point where our system cannot continue to go in the mode of stretching, stretching, stretching.”

At the end of August, about 15,000 COVID tests were administered over a seven-day period in Snohomish County. Fifteen percent of them came back positive — the highest positivity rate since spring 2020.

As of Friday, 101 county residents were hospitalized due to the virus. Twenty-five required ventilators to breathe.

Meanwhile, deaths from the virus are on the rise, though they haven’t reached previous peaks seen during the winter.

In the first three weeks of August, 21 people died from the virus. In all of July, the Snohomish Health District recorded 12 COVID deaths. Since the pandemic began in January 2020, 656 people have died of COVID in Snohomish County. Statewide, the cumulative number of fatalities is 6,691.

With heavy travel and large gatherings expected this weekend, public health leaders are asking everyone to wear masks, maintain physical distance from others and get vaccinated.

“It sounds like we’re repeating a message from months ago and a year ago, because we are,” Shah said. “We have one tool, vaccination. That’s the long game to get us through.”

With increased demand for testing in Snohomish County, the health district is moving a Lynnwood test site from the food bank to the Ash Way Park and Ride, according to a news release.

“As we saw with the vaccine site there earlier this year, this location allows us to handle higher volumes and some added flexibility for future planning needs,” health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said. “We appreciate Community Transit’s partnership and support in helping us bring this location back online.”

Another test site in the north end of the county is expected to open at the end of the month.

The Ash Way site is to open Thursday and joins the county’s other site at 3715 Oakes Ave. in Everett.

To schedule an appointment, call 425-339-5278 or visit www.snohd.org/testing.

Those who are ill should not ride public transportation when going to the new Ash Way Park and Ride site for testing, the news release said. If transportation is a barrier, call the COVID-19 Helpline operated by Washington 211 at 1-800-525-0127.

Herald writer Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.

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

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