EVERETT — Despite the highly anticipated arrival of two COVID-19 vaccines, Snohomish County has reached the deadliest point of the coronavirus pandemic so far.
Across the county, at least 89 people died from COVID between Nov. 15 and Dec. 12, according to Snohomish Health District data — the most deaths over a four-week period yet.
In that span, more people in the county died from COVID than the six months between June and November.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations remain high, with roughly 90 to 100 people sick with COVID in county hospital beds on a given day.
“It just speaks again to the faster we can get this curve to go down, the better,” health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said during a Tuesday media briefing. “And all the more reason for everybody to be cautious and try to be disciplined over the holidays to help the community get through this.”
But there is good news.
Since Friday, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett has given about 2,000 staff member their first shot of the COVID vaccine. In three weeks, they’ll be eligible for the second and final shot.
And more shipments are coming.
Throughout the week, 17,200 doses of Moderna’s vaccine will arrive at various sites across the county.
The early supply is reserved for high-risk health care workers and first responders, then staff and residents at long-term care homes.
In total, 25,000 to 28,000 people qualify for the first phase of vaccinations, according to a health district estimate.
In addition to the vaccine’s arrival, Snohomish County’s rolling COVID case rate declined this week for the first time since September — a sign that the county may have seen the worst from this third wave of the virus.
The two-week period ending Saturday saw 427 new infections per 100,000 people — down from last week’s 444 per 100,000.
The recent data show the county, and state, likely avoided a surge in cases from Thanksgiving gatherings.
But the level of transmission is still high.
Local and state officials are urging people to remain cautious and forego large Christmas celebrations, as well.
“Let’s not count our chickens before they’re hatched,” Spitters said. “What we’re seeing now in terms of deaths is based on what was being transmitted several weeks ago. So even though the curve has turned a little bit, it’s still at an incredibly high level. And two, we’re still going to experience the suffering, hospitalizations and deaths created by the cases that occurred several weeks ago.”
He added it was “certainly possible” that Gov. Jay Inslee’s restrictions on businesses and social gatherings helped prevent a spike.
Most recent cases are coming from social gatherings, workplace outbreaks and long-term care homes, Spitters said.
Countywide, nearly 60 long-term care homes have seen a total of about 750 COVID cases in the past two months.
About 170 of those cases are linked to Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood, making it the largest long-term care home outbreak the state has seen.
The facility is to receive doses of a COVID vaccine Sunday, CEO Terry Robertson said in an email.
Originally, Josephine was going to receive doses for staff and residents from CVS, but the pharmacy couldn’t deliver shipments until Jan. 9, so Robertson switched to Redmond-based Consonus Healthcare.
Josephine staff will be required to get the vaccine to work, Robertson said.
Other long-term care homes will likely get their vaccines from CVS and Walgreens in coming weeks, Spitters said.
In Everett, Dr. George Diaz, section chief of infectious diseases for Providence, was among the first five people in the county to be vaccinated last week.
Since, he’s experienced a sore arm but no other side effects, he said.
Misinformation about the vaccine is leading to unnecessary anxiety, Diaz said. Folks should make sure their vaccine information is coming from sources like the federal Centers for Disease Control, state Department of Health and local health districts, he said.