EVERETT — More people in Snohomish County are hospitalized because of COVID-19 than ever before, the Snohomish Health District announced Friday.
Hospitalizations have more than quadrupled since Christmas Eve.
On Dec. 24, there were 34 hospital beds in the county dedicated to patients with COVID.
As of Friday, 143 people were hospitalized with the virus.
The previous high was 128, in December 2020.
“You may have heard that omicron causes milder illness,” said Dr. Jay Cook, chief medical officer of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. “However, it is so contagious that it is already flooding our emergency departments, hospitals and the entire health care system.”
In the week ending on New Year’s Day, more than 5,500 people tested positive for COVID-19, according to the health district. Thanks to omicron, doctors project, the historic surge in case counts will continue to ascend in the weeks to come.
Testing hasn’t kept up with demand. Appointments at most providers are booked out a week or two, and people are seeing hours-long waits at walk-in clinics. So many cars have lined up at one site in Everett, causing disruption in the neighborhood, that the city is seeking to move it.
Hospitals are again canceling non-emergency procedures and restricting visitation. Health officials advise people to save visits to urgent care or the emergency room for emergencies only. (But don’t delay if there is a true medical emergency.) Those with mild COVID symptoms are asked to stay home. Telehealth visits are encouraged.
“We continue to ask more and more of them,” county health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said in a statement. “They’re tapped out and we are on the brink of a very dangerous situation.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, announced Friday he tested positive for COVID-19 after he took a test as a precaution ahead of the legislative session. In a statement, he described his symptoms as “very mild.”
“I’m fine, I have a bit of a cold but other than that I feel OK,” said Lovick, 70. “One thing is for sure — I’m relieved that I’m both vaccinated and boosted.”
“I wear my mask, I wash my hands about 20 times a day and I still got it,” his statement continued. “This virus is nothing to mess around with and we all have to do our part to protect ourselves and each other.”
The legislative session starts on Monday. For the second year in a row, all hearings and floor sessions will be virtual, due to concerns about COVID. It will be Lovick’s first time serving as a state senator. The former representative was appointed to the position on Dec. 6.
Earlier this week, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers announced he had contracted the virus.
Courts throughout the state are taking precautions. In Snohomish County, the Everett District Court has suspended jury trials through Jan. 31. Likewise, neighboring Skagit, King and Pierce counties have suspended felony trials.
In a letter sent to presiding judges on Wednesday, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell requested the Superior Court do the same. He noted an increasing number of his staff have either contracted or have been exposed to COVID-19. He believes the same is happening in the public defender’s office, he wrote.
“The health and safety of the members of our law and justice community, as well as that of their families and loved ones, is increasingly at greater and greater risk as the pandemic rages on,” he wrote. “Jury trials only further the threat of infection and spread.”
Trials so far are proceeding as scheduled, but it’s a daily conversation, said Superior Court administrator Andrew Somers.
“Things are very fluid,” he said.
And while most K-12 students throughout the county have resumed in-person learning, school districts are warning a sudden pivot to remote learning could be possible.
In a letter sent to families on Friday, Everett Public Schools Superintendent Ian Saltzman said a transition to remote learning would be based on direction by health officials or the district’s ability to have enough staff available. If a school closes, it will be closed for 10 calendar days, he wrote. High school athletics would continue, but all other after-school activities would cease.
“I would like to emphasize, at this time we are not talking about a district-wide closure, but if an individual school must close,” Saltzman wrote. “There are no plans to implement a district-wide closure.”
As for how to navigate life with the fast-spreading omicron variant, doctors are delivering the same message they’ve delivered again and again and again: Get vaccinated, get a booster and mask up when around other people, preferably with higher-quality face coverings like an N95 or KN95.
And don’t pull down your mask to talk to people.
“That defeats the purpose,” Skagit Regional Health’s Dr. Connie Davis said in the pre-recorded video.
Dr. Patrick Gemperline, of SeaMar Community Health Center, also encouraged people to avoid crowds and unnecessary travel. If you do gather with other people, “keep it short,” he said in the video, and make sure the area is well ventilated.
“If you are feeling ill, even a little bit — stay home,” he said.
Herald writer Jake Goldstein-Street contributed to this story.