Spread of coronavirus continues to slow in Snohomish County

The latest tally shows a decrease in the infection rate — to almost half of what it was during a surge in July.

EVERETT —As the spread of the coronavirus continues to slow in Snohomish County, the upcoming Labor Day weekend will put residents’ resolve to the test, officials said Tuesday.

New case counts for the potentially deadly virus dropped to a rate of 54 per 100,000 residents in the two-week period that ended Aug. 29 — another decline since a peak of 96 cases in early July.

And the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is also the lowest it’s been in the county since early June, according to the Snohomish Health District’s latest tally.

That report also recorded a drop in the number of people acquiring COVID-19 from friends or other close contacts. For the first time in weeks, more people were infected with the virus through random community transmission as opposed to, say, a gathering of friends or family.

When cases peaked in July, it was due in part to large gatherings of young people expanding their social circles while not wearing masks. Public health workers traced confirmed cases back to 30 get-togethers on July 4 alone.

Now, with a long holiday weekend and a forecast for warm weather, Snohomish County’s public health officer is hoping to avoid another surge.

“We’ve made tremendous strides over the last month. We don’t want to lose that momentum or risk going backwards,” said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish Health District at his weekly news conference.

Spitters said gatherings need to be limited to no more than five people, preferably from the same household. People need to wear a face covering, even in outdoor settings when you cannot maintain at least six feet of physical distance from others, he said.

Results of a recently completed survey in the county found widespread mask-wearing by those entering indoor businesses but far less adherence to the statewide mandate by people as they walked on busy streets or engaged in activities in parks in outlying areas.

Ten volunteers conducted the non-scientific survey from July 22-29 and a second round from Aug. 11-15. They visited 23 business sites and 15 outdoor settings across the county. In all, they tallied roughly 3,500 observations.

Spitters said volunteers observed nearly every person entering a commercial setting donned a face covering. At transit centers, compliance ranged from 73% in the morning to 96% in the evening, while two-thirds of those seen at community parks wore a face covering.

Volunteers witnessed “very low” compliance among those recreating in larger regional parks, he said. The percentage rose slightly among those seen on busy streets.

While case counts continue to decline, the rate is still too high for Spitters to endorse a return of students to public school campuses on a regular basis. The school year began Tuesday in two districts, Arlington and Darrington, with 11 others opening this week and next.

Health experts, including Spitters, say a county should be at or below 25 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period before school districts consider reopening their campuses for in-person instruction.

Snohomish County was below that mark entering June. Then the county moved into Phase 2 of the governor’s “Safe Start” reopening plan, and in July cases spiked, spurring Spitters to recommend districts start with 100% remote learning this fall.

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee outlined a recommendation by health and education leaders that divides the state’s 39 counties into categories of low, moderate and high risk, based on their respective infection rates.

At the time, Snohomish County was in the high-risk grouping because its rate exceeded 75 cases per 100,000 residents. Now it is in the moderate or intermediate category, which is between 25 and 75 cases.

In those counties, schools should consider in-person learning options for elementary students and those with special needs while maintaining distance learning for middle school and high school students, according to the guidelines.

Spitters said reopening for in-person learning for counties at the intermediate rate of transmission is still “risky.”

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, speaking at the same news conference, said that from his vantage point it is “pretty unlikely” students of any grade level would be back on campus this fall on a large scale.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Brian Holtzclaw (left) and Tim Schmitt.
Recount confirms Holtzclaw’s re-election to Mill Creek council

In Stanwood, a machine recount validated Tim Schmitt’s defeat of City Councilwoman Judy Williams.

No one was injured in a fire that caused more than $200,000 damage to a commercial building in Edmonds early Wednesday morning. (South County Fire)
Fire damages former Edmonds Family Fun Center building

There were no injuries and the cause was not immediately clear.

This undated photo, provided by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, shows U.S. Army Cpl. Benjamin Bazzell, 18, of Seymour, Conn., killed during the Korean War, who has been identified. The remains of Bazzell and other soldiers were turned over by North Korea to the U.S. in 2018 following a meeting between then-President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency via AP)
Remains of Everett woman’s brother killed in Korean War identified

The Army corporal went missing in action during the conflict in 1950.

Riaz Khan speaks at the groundbreaking at the site of the Islamic Center of Mukilteo that he helped spearhead over the last seven years on Saturday, March 6, 2021 in Mukilteo, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
All faiths invited to Saturday meeting for Mukilteo mosque

Construction is to begin in April. Pledges of $800,000 are needed to complete the project.

William Talbott II pleads his innocence before a judge sentences him to life with out parole at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Everett, Wash. A Snohomish County judge sentenced William Talbott II to life in prison without parole, for murdering a young Canadian couple in 1987. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Cold-case murder conviction reversed due to juror’s bias

William Talbott, the world’s first convicted forensic genealogy defendant, was accused of killing a young Canadian couple in 1987.

Driver hits pedestrian on U.S. 2 trestle near Lake Stevens

The man, 56, was walking westbound near the Highway 204 interchange when he tried to cross the lanes.

Man identified after fatal fall from Arlington cell tower

Michael Vasquez, 24, of Las Vegas, fell about 140 feet while working Saturday afternoon.

A map of alternative routes and stations for the Sound Transit light rail extension from Lynnwood to Everett. (Sound Transit)
City of Everett outlines light rail priorities for 2037

Per a letter to Sound Transit, the mayor and planning director say they want four stations open as soon as possible.

Dr Chris Spitters (center), Interim Health Officer, makes makes his address Monday evening during a Special Meeting of the Snohomish Health District Board of Health at the Administration Builiding in Everett on March 2, 2020.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Chris Spitters, Snohomish County’s chief health officer, to step down

The physician who has been the official voice of the pandemic here says his departure is not work-related.

Most Read