Snohomish County Unlikely To Enter Phase 2

High case counts continue to slow the progression of Snohomish County advancing into the second phase of Gov. Inslee's "Safe Start" plan beginning Jun. 1.

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Courtesy of Access Washington

Dr. Chris Spitters, the Snohomish County Health District’s top healthcare officer spoke over the phone with members of the press Friday and believes contact tracing and testing isn’t where it needs to be to control a major outbreak.

The Snohomish County Health District is doubtful the county will enter into phase 2 of Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan beginning Jun. 1. 

According to the Everett Herald, Dr. Chris Spitters, the Snohomish County Health District’s top healthcare officer spoke over the phone with members of the press Friday and believes contact tracing and testing isn’t where it needs to be to control a major outbreak. 

In the released transcripts of the health districts May 22, COVID-19 briefing, Spitters explained where he believes the county is being held up from advancing to phase 2. “On phase two there is for the community to have fewer than 10 cases cumulatively in a 14-day period for every hundred thousand people.” This means that the health district needs to see that Snohomish County has roughly 80 or less COVID-19 cases every two weeks. 

Spitters explained how the health district came up with the specific data that shows Snohomish County must have roughly six cases a day.  “What we’re really looking for is to get that 80 or less cases in a two week period,” said Spitter. Between May 8-21, Snohomish County reported 308 new cases. 

Though Snohomish County has made significant progress in flattening the curve, Spitters believes the county still isn’t there. “I don’t see us passing that line of 80 cases per 14 day period by the time we reach June 1.”

A graphic illustrating the data and math the health district uses to know when to enter into phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start recovery plan on Friday, May 22. (Courtesy of the Snohomish Health District)

Dr. Spitters reiterated that the virus has only been around for four months, and that developing not only the scientific but logistical responses to it are all a work in progress. “You know, the plane is flying down the runway and we’re still putting it together. That’s just the way it is,” said Spitters. 

County Executive Dave Somers asked Dr. Spitters, “Assuming we’re in phase two by September, if a second wave arrives, would you expect to need to lock things down again?”

Spitters answered back “I don’t know if we’ll be there in September or August or October, but there’s always the chance we’ll have to kind of turn back up the dial on some form of social distancing or other to resume control if things start to get out of hand again.”

On May 21, Snohomish County Council appropriated $73 million dollars in CARES Act relief funds.  According to the Snohomish County Council press release on Thursday, “After a series of special meetings between the Snohomish County Council, County Executive Dave Somers, department directors, and staff regarding the allocation of Federal CARES Act Funds, the Snohomish County Council passed an ordinance to direct initial CARES Act funds and an amendment explaining dollar amounts and where those dollars will be spent.”

Washington State counties that are eligible to apply for a variance to enter into Phase 2 of the states Safe Start plan, on May 19, 2020. (Courtesy of Access Washington)

A breakdown of dollar amounts is below:

  • $27m for economic stabilization
  • $20m for public health/medical response
  • $10m for the Snohomish Health District
  • $10m for human/social services + housing
  • $6m for essential government services

According to the May 22, media release from the Stay Home, Stay Healthy update, Shawn Frederick, administrative officer for the Health District expressed his gratitude for the continued partnership with Snohomish County. “The allocation authorized by the County Council will allow us to quickly ramp up contact tracing and testing capacity needed to meet the Phase 2 variance criteria released this week.” 

On May 22, Gov. Inslee made a statement on the progression of the Safe Start Phases, “We are hard at work to determine next steps as we move closer to the May 31 expiration of my current order.” said Inslee. “As I have repeatedly said before, these are decisions that are driven by public health data and science, not the calendar.”

Phase 2 permits outdoor recreation, construction, retail, manufacturing, domestic services, real estate, nail salons, barbers, professional services, pet grooming and restaurants to reopen with strict safety measures.