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COVID rates down; update on vaccinations, schools

 
Series: Coronavirus | Story 325

Last updated 12/22/2020 at 5:32pm

For the first time since early-September, the rolling two-week case rate in Snohomish County decreased, from 444 to 427 per 100,000 residents, reports the Snohomish Health District. Coupled with the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the county these are promising signs.

"For that trend to continue moving in the right direction, we really need all of our residents and businesses to keep those important public health measures up during the holidays," said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.

"As hard as it is, avoiding indoor gatherings, wearing face masks and keeping six feet apart from those we don't live with are the key to easing restrictions in the new year."

While the two-week case rate decreased, Snohomish County is still in a very precarious position:

Long-term care facilities continue to lead to 50-60 new cases weekly. There are ongoing outbreaks in 16 of the 17 skilled nursing facilities, 19 assisted living, and 23 adult family homes. These outbreaks account for around 750 cases over the past two months.

The COVID hospital census – the number of people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 – has been holding steady at 90-100 people daily. These COVID cases represent more than 15 percent of total hospital capacity in the county, with the goal being under 10 percent. On any given day, there are 12-15 individuals requiring mechanical ventilation due to respiratory failure.

Snohomish County has been averaging 24 deaths per week this month. This is up from 1-2 per week in August and September.

UPDATES ON VACCINE DISTRIBUTION AND PLANNING

The first 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (PRMCE). Dr. Spitters and County Executive Dave Somers were joined by Dr. George Diaz, Section Chief for Infectious Diseases at PRMCE and an Edmonds resident, for a virtual media briefing to discuss the vaccines.

Diaz shared that more than 2,000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated at PRMCE since Friday.

Given the temporary reallocation of the Pfizer vaccine, there aren't any shipments of Pfizer expected in Snohomish County this week. The Health District does anticipate the first 17,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine being delivered locally this week. These will all be prioritized to high-risk employees in healthcare settings, with high-risk first responders soon to follow.

Employees and residents at long-term care and similar adult care settings will also begin to receive vaccines through federal partnerships established with Walgreens and CVS in the coming weeks. Walgreens and CVS will be reaching out directly to those facilities to coordinate the process.

Frequently asked questions and updates will continue to be posted at http://www.snohd.org/covidvaccine. Vaccinated or not, community members need to keep their guard up until vaccine coverage is high and COVID rates are down.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SCHOOLS

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) recently released Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students. Key updates of the document:

Established metrics and thresholds for low, medium, and high transmission categories, with revisions based on emerging research and data gathered by state and national officials.

Defined a maximum "small group" size of 15 for learning when disease activity is high and defined 'youngest learners' as pre-K through 3rd grade.

This toolkit includes two checklists that ensure readiness of both schools and local health jurisdictions to implement DOH Health and Safety Measures and Labor & Industries requirements and a matrix that summarizes recommendations for the provision of in-person learning based on the community's metrics.

This document supports the guidance that the Health District has offered since September, allowing schools to gradually phase in hybrid learning young learners and for groups of students who have special needs.

Given this, the Health District recommends that schools may resume classes in January 2021 with the same cohorts who were attending in-person classes prior to winter breaks.

Then after a three-week waiting period, schools may follow the framework set forth in the DOH toolkit to consider bringing back additional layers in similarly spaced intervals as appropriate. For those schools where no in-person learning was occurring in December, they may use the framework to start fresh with the highest need and youngest students and then proceed accordingly from there.

This guidance assumes continued implementation of all health and safety measures recommended.

 

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