The Snohomish Health District building in Everett. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

The Snohomish Health District building in Everett. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Snohomish County reports record spike in COVID-19 cases

The surge is fueled by omicron. Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters expects numbers to increase from here.

EVERETT — In the week ending on Christmas Day, Snohomish County had more confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other seven-day period since the pandemic began, local health officials reported.

In all, 2,719 people here tested positive for the virus last week, the Snohomish Health District said Tuesday.

It’s a nearly 129% surge over the previous week’s numbers, and it breaks a downward trend, albeit a wobbly one, in Snohomish County case counts.

“This is what I expected,” Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said Tuesday. “Maybe a little faster than I hoped for, but certainly not unexpected.”

Spitters predicts the trend will continue, with weekly cases peaking at around 6,000 in February. Statewide, infection numbers “will blow the lid off prior historical totals,” he said in an email.

“These are rough estimates based on assumptions with quite a bit of uncertainty,” he said. “But folks need to understand that’s the general forecast of where we’re headed in Snohomish County.”

The fast-spreading omicron variant now makes up the vast majority of cases in the Puget Sound region. The variant was first detected in Snohomish County less than two weeks ago.

This week, neighboring King County similarly reported a record number of infections. The state’s data dashboard shows case rates increasing again.

The Snohomish Health District also cited waning immunity in people who are vaccinated but haven’t gotten a booster dose, as well as an increase of indoor, unventilated gatherings as it gets colder.

Health district spokesperson Kari Bray said more people taking tests around the holidays also could have contributed to the steep increase.

Positive cases linked to holiday gatherings, she added, likely won’t be detected for another week or so. The county’s current 14-day case rate is at 322.

The local surge so far isn’t paired with an increase in hospitalizations.

But modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — a University of Washington tool used by health officials nationwide — predicts a surge in Washington’s infections, hospitalizations and deaths into February and March.

As of Monday, there were 43 COVID-positive hospital patients in the county, 20 of whom were on ventilators. Overall ICU capacity is around 87%.

Meanwhile, inclement weather has shuttered the county’s two drive-thru testing sites. Officials are still evaluating if conditions are safe enough to reopen them.

County officials don’t have plans to open more testing sites, Bray said, but they are looking to boost mobile vaccination efforts in the new year.

Gov. Jay Inslee also said last week that Washington will stand up more mass vaccination sites. Details have not yet been announced.

“We know that with the weather and existing demand that there may be some delays with boosters and testing,” Bray said. “We just really appreciate people’s patience. Stick with it.”

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

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