County COVID-19 briefing: Cases continue to decline, vaccine frustration lingers

Declining COVID cases, but lingering vaccine frustration marked Snohomish County’s latest coronavirus briefing Tuesday.

The vaccine pipeline is slowly reopening here. Dr. Chris Spitters, the county’s chief health officer, said during the briefing that the county is getting deliveries that were promised last week and getting this week’s vaccine allotment as well. That means 30,000 doses “within the next day or two,”  Spitters told reporters. That’s 10,000 doses for first shots; 20,000 slated for people getting the second shot.

The county warns that there have been misleading notices and posts claiming vaccine sites are “first-come, first-served.” That, Spitters said, is not true. To get the vaccine, you must have an appointment. A new state online appointment system has been delayed, again, as the county continues to test it.

Jason Biermann, County Emergency Management Services Director

Jason Biermann, the county’s director of emergency services, said: “We wanted this rollout to be a notable improvement (over the current system).” The county is taking extra time to train and test the website. He hopes it will be ready by next week.

That means more appointments should be available. The mass vaccination site at the Arlington Municipal Airport should be open for appointments through this weekend. Biermann said the Arlington drive-thru site can now give 1,700 vaccinations a day; by this weekend, it could hit as high as 3,000 a day.

Biermann said teams are also going to adult family homes. By next week, he predicts that all residents at the county’s 615 adult family homes will have received their first dose.

The county also said it continues to reach out to what it calls “marginalized” communities – Black, Latinx and Indigenous. The outreach also includes seniors who do not have access to computers to schedule appointments. The county COVID call center at 425-339-5278 is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to assist with appointments.  Online, check the County Health COVID website for appointments.

You may now be able to get vaccinated at Walmart, Rite Aid and Kroger (Fred Meyer and QFC). These pharmacies join Safeway/Albertsons, Costco and Health Mart Independent Pharmacies. The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program has added them to the vaccine provider list.

The state is also scheduled to get more vaccine. Doses distributed should hit 292,000 by the first week of March. But that is still 173,000 doses less than the state requested for just this week.

New COVID case rates are down substantially; fewer people are dying from the virus, and hospitalization rates are steady county-wide, officials said. For the two-week period ending last Saturday, the new case rate was 119, down from 142 the previous period. It’s also down 75% from the peak of new cases, which hit 440 in late December.

There was only one new case in any of the county’s long-term care facilities. Spitters called that “remarkable.” County-wide, five people died last week. Two months ago, the county averaged 30 per week.  Hospitalizations continue to average between 30-40 a week. More than 110,000 residents have now been vaccinated; 92,000 got the first shot, 20,000, the second dose.

One measure of how many doses have been administered is the number of shots per 10,000 people. Snohomish County this week ranks 30th of the state’s 39 counties. Why is that ratio is so low here?  County Executive Dave Somers replied: “Supply, supply, supply; we were getting fewer doses than some other counties, but I think that has been corrected.” Spitters told reporters: “It’s not all because of our low allocation, but early there was some unfairness.” He said King and Pierce counties have more long-term care facilities, and that Snohomish fell behind partly due to that. However, the data shows many smaller counties rank much higher on the shot ratios than Snohomish County does. “It’s a race against virus, not against our neighbors,” Spitters said. “The real focus is on moving us forward as fast as we can.”

— By Bob Throndsen




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