New health officer worked closely with Snohomish County in pandemic

The outgoing health officer has “nothing but confidence” in his successor. The two say they had similar approaches to COVID.

James Lewis

James Lewis

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s leading health official, Dr. Chris Spitters, has “nothing but confidence and optimism” when it comes to his replacement.

This week, the retiring health officer gave a warm handoff to Dr. James Lewis, who’s leaving his medical epidemiologist role with King County’s public health agency. Starting Aug. 1, he’ll guide Snohomish County through what’s been described as a pivotal moment for public health here. Lewis will make $200,000 a year, according to a health district spokesperson. The contract does not have a specified end date.

Earlier this month, the county got the ball rolling on a plan to make the health district a part of county government. The move will funnel more money into the agency and help it revamp direct services that cash-strapped officials have had to nix over the years.

Lewis and Spitters have worked together across county lines during the pandemic, as Lewis helped King County address COVID-19 cases in l0ng-term care facilities.

“You quickly became our go-to guy for technical assistance early in the pandemic,” Spitters told his successor Tuesday. “Now it’s fitting that on the other end of that timeline, you’re up to bat.”

Lewis is a licensed medical doctor and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Washington.

He has a “fantastic baseline” of experience, Spitters said, “and I think he’ll take this position to heights far beyond where I’ll be able to.”

Lewis said he’s excited to kickstart more direct services, including sexual health and vaccine clinics. The department started downsizing and cutting those programs around 2008, Spitters said.

Chris Spitters (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Chris Spitters (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Priorities will be hammered out, Lewis said, once the county finishes its newest community health assessment. The broad-scale analysis looks at issues from suicide and opioid misuse to oral health, racial health disparities and cancer mortality rates.

The last assessment was completed in 2018. Work on a new one will start this fall.

In the meantime, Lewis said he’ll be working to guide Snohomish County COVID response from an “acute pandemic” stage to an “endemic” one.

Residents shouldn’t expect any major differences in the county’s COVID-19 response, Lewis said, since his approach to the pandemic has largely mirrored Spitters’ in the last two years.

“I don’t think we disagreed on anything heavily,” Lewis said of their time working together on COVID issues, “so I can’t imagine there’ll be a huge difference.”

He also doesn’t anticipate major challenges in transitioning the department into a new structure, although some details may “come down to the wire.”

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @yawclaudia.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Granite Falls ‘10-foot alligator’ is actually a tegu named ‘Tazz’

Anybody who spots the docile lizard, last seen near Granite Falls, is asked to notify 911, so Tazz can be reunited with owner.

Photos by Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Gabby Bullock sits on her bed in a room she shares with another housemate on June 14 in Everett.
‘We don’t have openings’: SnoCo recovery houses struggle with demand

Advocates say the homes are critical for addiction recovery. But home prices make starting a sober living house difficult.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Food safety team defends its work: it’s a ‘high pressure, thankless’ job

Management tried to set the record straight about long permit delays in Snohomish County.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Global tech outage leaves a mark on Snohomish County

The CrowdStrike software update hit some systems at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and briefly disrupted 911 operations.

Performers joust during the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire at Sky Meadows Park in Snohomish, Washington, on Sunday, Aug. 06, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Royalty and revelry: The spirit of the Renaissance comes to Monroe

The annual Renaissance fair will open its doors every weekend from July 20 to Aug. 18

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.