The language was blunt, and occasionally harsh, from county leaders during Tuesday’s Snohomish County COVID-19 media briefing.
“If people still think it’s a hoax, that’s really sad,” said County Executive Dave Somers. “COVID is a horrible way to die.”
”You don’t have to have (underlying) complications to get horribly sick,” said Dr. Sandeep Sachdeva, chief medical officer at Swedish Edmonds and Mill Creek.
And County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said “there are no imminent plans,” moving forward, to apply for additional reopening of business, dining and recreation.
Officials’ concerns come as county data shows that for the sixth week in a row, new cases spiked. There have been 140 new cases since Friday. Countywide, there were an average of 97 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents in the last two-week period — “right about even to where things were in mid-March,” during the initial surge of coronavirus, Spitters said.
One of every two new cases (55%) are now reported in people between the ages of 15 and 39. People over 70 now only account for 5% of new cases. Both doctors agree that coronavirus tends to be less severe in younger age groups, but Dr. Sachdeva says 20% of the patients Swedish Edmonds admitted since March are less than 50 years-old. A total of 205 people have been hospitalized at Swedish Edmonds for COVID-19.
Statewide, hospitalization rates are on the rise again. That has not happened in the county, but both doctors warn it could. At Swedish Edmonds, since March, 21% of patients admitted have died; but in June, that number had dropped to 7%, as doctors learn more about how to treat the disease, said Sachdeva.
During the briefing, a question was asked if it was time to “crack down” on people who don’t social distance, mask up or follow restrictions. All three leaders agreed that would be difficult. Spitters admitted that “we live in a social and political culture where that measure of control is not part of our makeup.”
One question that has come up again and again: If coronavirus can be less severe in people in their 20s to 40s, why not just quarantine the older and more vulnerable? Even if you “cocoon” the vulnerable, that’s not a guarantee to stop the virus, Sachdeva said. “My worry is that eventually this will reach the vulnerable segment of the population; it is just a matter of time.”
Added Spitters: “To impose restrictions on one age group so others can have their way, it is not the best way to go.”
On Thursday, new statewide restrictions take effect to try to slow the spread of COVID.
New Safe Start Restrictions
- Indoor restaurant dining five per table all from the same family.
- Outside-mixed groups up to five per table
- Restaurants stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m.
- No inside service at any bar/tavern/distillery/winery/brewery.
- Indoor gyms/pools/fitness centers – only five people at a time.
- No mini-golf, bowling, indoor card rooms until phase 4.
- Weddings/Funerals as of Aug. 6:
- Limited to 20% of capacity or 30 people, whichever is less.
- Includes outdoor weddings
- No on-site receptions
Starting Monday, Aug. 3, the county is moving its drive-thru COVID-19 testing site from McCollum Park to the original site on Broadway near Memorial Stadium and Everett School District. That will allow the county to double the number of tests per week to 500.
For information and appointments visit the health district webpage here.
In other briefing topics, County Executive Somers reported that county employees will now work remotely until the end of the year. “We want to keep everybody as safe and healthy as possible,” he said, adding that the remote system is working well.
Sachdeva said that none of the Swedish Edmonds Intensive Care Unit COVID-19 treatment staff contracted coronavirus. Some other hospital staff did get COVID, but it was traced to contacts they had outside of the medical center, he said.
Recognizing the mental and physical stress on all hospital staff, Swedish is using its counseling website and counselors to provide up to 10 free sessions for anyone feeling work anxiety or stresses in their daily life, Sachdeva added.
He also shared that the hospital developed a new treatment process that has helped some COVID patients breathe better. Swedish studied whether rotating patients onto their stomachs helped their breathing. It did and the procedure is now used at Providence Hospital in Everett as well.
— By Bob Throndsen