The month in public health: COVID hospitalizations near pandemic low

Meanwhile, the bad news: Opioid overdoses continue to increase in Snohomish County.

Dr. James Lewis

Dr. James Lewis

This story is the second of regular updates based on the latest data, programs and policies of the Snohomish County Health Department.

EVERETT — COVID hospitalizations continue to decline in Snohomish County, close to the lowest rate since the pandemic began, according to Dr. James Lewis, health officer for the Snohomish County Health Department.

“It’s been on a steady trajectory downward for weeks now,” Lewis said. The rate was 5.8 hospitalizations per 100,000 people the week ending March 4, down from a high of 14.9 in July 2022.

Despite plans to end the statewide mask mandate for health care, long-term care and adult correctional facilities on April 3, health care providers in the Puget Sound region agreed to continue requiring masks in their acute care and outpatient clinics, according to a recent statement. That includes large Snohomish providers like EvergreenHealth and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Snohomish County joined other health departments supporting this regional approach to “prioritize the health and safety of both their patients and employees.”

Lewis thinks a countywide mask mandate is not the right approach right now.

In other news, January and February had the highest number of emergency medical responses to possible opioid overdoses in over a year — 156 and 143 — according to county data.

In addition to high fentanyl concentrations leading to accidental overdoses, xylazine, or “tranq,” is now being mixed in with fentanyl in some parts of the country. Last week the federal Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public safety alert about xylazine being found in about 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills it seized in 2022.

Lewis said the county has not yet had a known case of a xylazine overdose since he started last August. But the Olympic Peninsula has had cases. Xylazine is not an opioid, so naloxone does not work to reverse the effects of an overdose. The drug can also lead to complications like chronic wounds, bloodstream infections and loss of limbs.

“So I think that’s very scary,” Lewis said. “And then also, we just continue to see the potency of fentanyl increase as well. And so that is probably the most alarming thing to me right now.”

The county’s Multi-Agency Coordination group, known as MAC, is looking into using some opioid settlement funds for making drug testing supplies more readily available.

The department’s monthly meetings are open to the public — in person, by phone or by Zoom. For more information, visit snohd.org.

Joy Borkholder: 425-339-3430; joy.borkholder@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jlbinvestigates.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

Rose Freeman (center) and Anastasia Allison of The Musical Mountaineers play atop Sauk Mountain near Concrete in October 2017. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Musical Mountaineers’ sunset serenade to launch Adopt a Stream campaign

The nonprofit aims to transform into an “accessible model of sustainability,” with solar panels, electric vehicles and more.

A Marysville firefighter sprays water on a smoking rail car at the intersection of 116th Street NE and State Avenue around 8 a.m. Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Rail car catches fire, blocks traffic in Marysville

Around 7:20 a.m. Thursday, firefighters responded to reports of smoke coming from a rail car near 172th Street NE, officials said.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

Firefighters transported two people to hospitals while extinguishing an apartment fire near Lake Ballinger in Edmonds Wednesday.
2 injured in Edmonds apartment fire

At least nine people were displaced by the fire on 236th Street SW, officials said. Nearly 50 firefighters responded.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff place a radio collar on a Grizzly Bear in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife / Wayne Kasworm)
For grizzly bears coming to Cascades, radio collars will keep close tabs

Tracking an apex predator is tricky. GPS collars play a central role in a controversial plan to repopulate grizzlies in Washington’s wilderness.

Maplewood Parent Cooperative School seventh and eighth grade students listen to Mason Rolph of Olympia Community Solar speak about different solar projects during a science class for the student's Sustainable Schools engineering units on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How can Edmonds make new schools more sustainable? Students have ideas

In a town hall Friday, students from Maplewood Parent Co-op will make pitches for the soon-to-be rebuilt College Place schools.

Pride flag vandalism raises concerns on Whidbey Island

Reports of theft involving LGBTQ+ pride-themed displays have increased around South Whidbey.

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.