Safe Start stumbles in Snohomish County: ‘Clearly a possibility’ we could return to Phase 1 if trends continue, officials say

Pat Morris

The words that came out of the weekly Snohomish County COVID-19 media briefing set a cautious tone. Asked Tuesday about a possible return to the restrictions of Phase 1, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said: “A week ago, I thought it was remote… now, it’s clearly a possibility” if cases continue to spike.

Added County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters: “We’re seeing the highest two week rate (of new cases) since late April.”

Also during the briefing, Pat Morris of the Everett-based Volunteers of America said that people in need “don’t even know where to start.”

It’s clear that coronavirus cases are spiking in the county. The health district reports 180 new patients in the last seven days; the county now shows just over 4,000 COVID-19 cases total.

In early June, the county reported a rate of 24 new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period, and on June 5 Snohomish County moved to Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start Plan. By the end of the month, the new case rate had jumped to 39 per 100,000 people. Spitters warned that the increase is not because of more testing, as some have reported, but is the result of the spreading infection.

“We do not want to backslide,”cautioned Somers. “We need to double down on restrictions.” The county executive mentioned masks, social distancing and no gatherings with more than five people outside our immediate families.

Asked about a return to Phase 1, Somers warned: “If we see a spike and more stress on hospitals, we could see a call for that… it’s clearly a possibility… but all of us want to avoid that.”  County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters simply said: “Agreed, agreed.”

Spitters called the big party in Stanwood last week a “super spreader event.”  Although only one partygoer has tested positive, he said the party hosts do not know the names of many who attended, and the county has no way to trace and contact possible victims.

The county is hearing a growing number of reports of other large parties. Somers said the county sheriff will be alerted about such gatherings, and it is up him to send deputies to investigate.

When Somers opened the COVID briefing, he said some are disappointed, while others feel helpless as the pandemic drags on.

That’s why Pat Morris, senior director of behavioral health for the Western Washington Volunteers of America (VOA), joined the briefing. VOA is launching a 10-person team of COVID outreach counselors, beginning July 13.  They will visit food banks, urgent care and medical clinics to ask people if they need more help.  VOA can offer connections to emotional and mental counseling, rent subsidies, housing help and food assistance

Morris suggests the best way to get details on locations and other services is to call their 2-1-1 phone line, which is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and does offer message service 24/7. You can also visit the organization’s website at

According to Morris, VOA has some generous rental vouchers and subsidies for those who face housing problems. She worries that when the state moratorium on evictions is lifted Aug. 1, her agency will see a large increase if families who need help.

All three echoed the same goals: To clamp down on the virus spread and reassure residents that help, for many issues, is available.

— By Bob Throndsen




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