County COVID-19 briefing: Infection rates continue to decline, opioid overdoses on rise

The rate of COVID-19 infections continues to drop in Snohomish County. That is one of the key takeaways from Snohomish County’s Tuesday coronavirus briefing.

We have now averaged 60 new cases per 100,000 residents during the last two weeks. That is down from an average of 75 in the previous period and is the third consecutive decline in new cases since late July. It is still far above the target average of only 25 new cases per 100,000 people, says Dr. Chris Spitters, the county’s chief medical officer.

He attributes the decline to what he calls the diligence of people wearing masks, keeping social distancing and taking the other precautions. The decreasing infection rate means more optimistic news for the start of school in two weeks.

But neither Spitters nor County Executive Dave Somers said they thinks the lower infection rate will change the remote learning plans most districts have adopted. Somers urged parents to “be patient” with the schools as they begin classes. He does think districts can “start to think about where they could layer in the children most likely to benefit from being in class” — those with special needs and younger kids.

He cautioned that there is no “magic number” that will allow classroom teaching to resume, and that the county can only offer the latest medical information — adding It’s up to each district to make its own decision. He warned that the schools can’t make instant changes in the learning plans they have adopted.

But with the encouraging news has come increasing case rates in younger people. The new case rate peaked in mid to late July in most age groups throughout the county. The biggest increase was for those between 20-29 years old. It’s that group, Spitters said, that “was leading the charge in new cases.”

Though this graphic shows recent declines in infection rates, the 20- to 29-year-old group (the grey colored line) still has the highest rate of new cases.

The following graph shows the 20-29 age group leading all others with 1,181 total cases, followed closely by three age groups from 30-59.

The 20-29 age group leads all others with 1,181 total cases.

One group hit especially hard by COVID are those with substance abuse, particularly opioid additions. Somers, who said members of his own family have suffered from substance abuse, warned that “anybody from any family, anywhere, can succumb to this disease.”

Spitters said the county has seen “a stunning increase” in opioid overdose cases during the pandemic. Somers added this addiction thrives among those who feel isolated, as they have been during the outbreak. Last year, the county lost 153 people to an overdose; in just the first three months of this year, 39 have died.

First responders saved 642 people who overdosed last year, and through this June, saved another 413 people. Somers said the county will continue to expand efforts to combat addiction, with teams of social workers embedded with police, through services at the Carnegie Resource and Diversion Center in Everett and expanding partnerships with groups throughout the county.

The county recently received a $1 million grant to fight opioid addiction in the Darrington and Sky Valley areas.  The Health District is also launching new data dashboards about the opioid crisis on its web page.

Debbie Warfield

Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Debbie Warfield is co-organizer of the Snohomish County Overdose Awareness Day 2020.

Warfield lost her son Spencer to an overdose in 2012. She has helped organize “A Night To Remember, A Time To Act.” This year it will be a virtual gathering, starting at 6 p.m.

Warfield says the event “will empower others to come forward and fight for their loved ones by taking action.”  A Night To Remember is partnering with the Snohomish Health District, “Hope Soldiers” and Snohomish Overdose Prevention.

You may join the discussion and help honor those who have died from addiction. Go to the Facebook event page for the Zoom link and additional information.

She said she hopes people will come away from the event with a renewed spirit to battle the disease, adding “this can happen to any family in any neighborhood and none of us are immune to the diseases or drugs that are out there.”

–By Bob Throndsen





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