By Kari Bray / Snohomish Health District
Case rates have been declining in Snohomish County, this week reaching fewer than 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population for the first time in two and a half months. In fact, we’re at the lowest case rate since October 2020 — that was nearly eight months ago.
Restrictions are lifting or are expected to lift soon. More activities and businesses are opening or expanding. Vaccinations have been steadily progressing and we are seeing the results as spread of the virus slows and life begins to look more like what we were accustomed to before the pandemic began.
These changes have many people looking to the future with anticipation. It’s exciting, but we also want to make sure we’re taking our next steps with respect, compassion and some caution.
The reality is that COVID is not gone and will continue to impact our lives, at least to some degree. That doesn’t mean we can’t get back to more of our normal activities, but it does mean that we need to be mindful as we do so to keep our community as safe as possible.
Here are four ways everyone can help us keep that forward momentum.
1. Vax up. Yes, we know you are sick of hearing it from us. Still, it’s got to be No. 1 on this list. The COVID-19 vaccines have been crucial for decreasing case rates. Widespread vaccination is our best bet for keeping those cases down and, more importantly, preventing hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID. In the past, we’ve seen lulls in virus activity followed by surges, forcing us to step back just when we felt like we were going forward. This time, though, we have readily available vaccine, and hundreds of thousands of people in our community already have been vaccinated. This is a turning point. If you haven’t gotten your vaccine yet, please consider doing so. If you have questions or concerns, talk through them with a medical professional.
2. Keep up good habits like handwashing, staying home when you don’t feel well, and being respectful of others’ space in group settings, particularly if you or others in the group are unvaccinated or if the group includes children too young to be vaccinated. Many of the practices we’ve picked up during the pandemic are important habits to prevent the spread of other diseases, too, like the flu or a common cold. If you’ve got a 20-second song clip you hum while scrubbing your hands, keep on humming even after you get vaccinated. All of those tips to keep you and others healthy still apply.
3. Stay informed. Ever since the first case of COVID-19, things have been changing and more information has been shared as we learn and adapt. Keep up with new information from healthcare providers, public health professionals and other reliable sources. Expect that there will be updates in the coming months or even years. For example, there are discussions underway now about topics like booster shots, vaccinations for younger ages, and illness prevention during winters where COVID, flu and seasonal illnesses are more likely to circulate. Know who your trusted sources are and share reliable information.
4. Be kind. Everyone’s “normal” looks different, and the return to pre-pandemic activities may happen at different speeds for the people in your life. You may not feel comfortable yet in a group setting, or you may want to keep your mask on even when it’s not required. That’s OK. You might also be on the other end, where you’re the one inviting a friend to a birthday or to go out to dinner, but your invite is declined because they just aren’t ready yet. That’s OK, too. We don’t all have to take the same steps at the same time. Respect the rules of the room. Extend some grace and allow your friends, family and others around you to have the time and space they need. Pandemic fatigue and re-entry anxiety, along with differences in opinion on when is the right time to resume certain activities, can be a lot to tackle. Kindness makes a huge difference.
The Public Health Essentials! blog highlights the work of the Snohomish Health District and shares health-related information and tips.