“It feels great.” That’s how Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers put it as the county and the state get ready to end COVID restrictions. In his weekly COVID briefing, Somers added, “Let’s get out and enjoy summer as safely as possible.”
Governor Inslee has set next Wednesday, June 30 as the day the state fully reopens. Washington is one of just four states that are still not open. Oregon, New Mexico and Hawaii are the others.
Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said the county has survived four waves of COVID and cases are still declining – slowly. The rate of new coronavirus cases has dropped to 69 per 100,000 residents. A total of 407,000 county residents are now fully vaccinated; the number of those over 16 with complete vaccinations is now 66%, just shy of the 70% level health officials have hoped for.
Vaccinations, said Spitters, are still running between 20,000-25,000 a week. He urged parents to continue to vaccinate kids who are 12 or older; there was no word on when vaccines will be available for younger children. At current levels of vaccination, he said, based on experience in other countries, “if we fully return to pre-pandemic activities, we would indeed see increases in disease transmission, hospitalizations and death.”
Though it may be more difficult to find places to get tested, Somers and Spitters reminded people that the testing site at Funko Field in Everett is still open and tests are available at the Lynnwood Food Bank. “We don’t want you playing Russian roulette with your health,” Somers added.
Click here for testing locations.
Asked if more aggressive COVID variants could derail reopening, Spitters responded that the current vaccines still show great efficacy in preventing the virus, and even better results in preventing serious cases of coronavirus.
The Snohomish County Courthouse and offices will reopen for in-person visits on July 6. Somers said all employees are still required to wear masks. They will “not challenge” visitors who do not mask up, said Somers, adding that “we are relying on common sense and the good will of the public to do the right thing” when they come to the county campus.
That statement raised the question of keeping emotions in check as more people stop using masks, while others still feel the need. “As times go on,” Somers added, “people will sort this out.” Masking may still be part of what he and Spitters called “our new normal, COVID or no COVID,” reminding us that in Asia, masks are common during cold and flu season.
But as of next Wednesday, after more than 500 days of COVID restrictions, life begins to look more normal.
— By Bob Throndsen