COVID-19 report for June 26, 2020: County concerned recent uptick might signal COVID comeback

With the latest statistics showing an increase in Snohomish County COVID-19 cases, local officials are doubling down on urging residents to wear masks, avoid crowds, and practice social distancing.

“Now is not the time to back off on these measures,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers in a Friday morning press briefing.

“The current uptick in cases that we are experiencing is concerning. As we are seeing across the country, increased activity is directly related to increased infection rates,” he continued. “To move to the next phase, we need the community’s help by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Since we’ve made so much progress, now is not the time to backslide.”

The latest charts and tables from the Snohomish County Health District and the state Department of Health illustrate these trends.

The following chart from Department of Health shows new cases per day in Snohomish County through June 24. Note the gradual increasing trend over the past two weeks, and particularly the surge over the June 19-22 period (grey bars indicate that the number for these days are still being finalized).

This is reflected in a similar chart from the Snohomish Health District, where numbers are added to the bars. While numbers had been hovering in the range of 20 or fewer new cases prior to last weekend, Friday, June 19, saw 36 new cases and Monday, June 22, a staggering 77.

A key criterion to determine readiness to move to a higher level of reopening under Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start program, the threshold number of new cases, specifically a rolling average of no more than 25 cases per 100,000 population over a 14-day period, needs to be met. Given that requirement, these numbers do not bode well for Snohomish County to move to Phase 3 anytime soon.

“I know that if we applied today, we would be denied,” County Executive Dave Somers said in a media briefing Friday.

The following chart and table from the DOH Risk Assessment dashboard show how the recent increase in cases in Snohomish County has exceeded the baseline criterion for Phase 2. Based in part on meeting this threshold earlier in the month, Snohomish County was approved to move to Phase 2 on June 5 — 21 days ago. While official speculate that this does not necessarily signal a possible rollback to Phase 1, the trend is concerning.

And although the new case number are up, interestingly the increase is not reflected in similar increases in COVID-related hospitalizations or deaths.

As illustrated in the line chart below, hospitalizations have remained relatively stable during June.

Similarly, deaths have remained relatively constant.


Officials speculate that this could be due to the recent higher infection rates among younger people, who do not seek hospitalization or succumb to the infection at the rates experienced in older demographics.

“Recently our new cases have been occurring in younger individuals, those in their late 30s and early 40s,” said Snohomish County Health Official Dr. Chris Spitters in Friday’s briefing to the press. “In tracing these cases and trying to identify risk factors, we find about half reported contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID, but even more concerning is an equal number of cases without an identifiable risk factor which we assign to the catchall category of community transmission — we just don’t know where the infection came from.”

Spitters went on to explain that we need to understand whether last weekend’s uptick was a “blip” or the beginning of a trend, and that this remains to be determined.

“To quote Dr. Fauci, ‘the virus will give us our timeline,’” Spitters concluded. “The fork in the road is ahead, and we’ll be watching it every day. At this juncture we don’t know which way it will go.”

Complete sets of charts, tables and numbers are available on the State Department of Health COVID Dashboard here, the State Risk Assessment Dashboard here and the Snohomish Health District COVID Case Count website here.

Breaking Update: Late Friday afternoon the Washington State Department of Health issued a news release announcing that due to technical issues, previously reported hospitalization data were short by 88 hospitalizations statewide dating as far back as March 29 — five of which were in Snohomish County. Due to scheduled server maintenance this weekend, the corrected data will not be available on the DOH Dashboard until Monday.  More information is available here.

— By Larry Vogel

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