Health officials advise continued distance, masking
Snohomish County vaccinations are going well
Last updated 1/1/2021 at 9:07am
One more winter holiday is coming up and health officials are sending a message that has been consistent since March, when a worldwide pandemic was first announced: distance and masks while we wait for the science to catch up.
Meanwhile, cases in Snohomish County showed a record-level increase of 668 from Christmas Eve to Dec. 28, a number higher than any data in the spring. The county has had 21,000 cases and 380 deaths since January 2020.
The vaccination effort has begun in Snohomish County and is going well, but it will be midway or late in 2021 before enough people are vaccinated to consider declaring the pandemic’s end.
"It will take most of next year to deploy the vaccines to everyone, but our goal really is to get 100% of the county’s residents vaccinated, at least have the opportunity and urge them to do so," said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers in the Joint Information Commission meeting Dec. 22.
Health officials warn that unmasked, close-proximity indoor gatherings can still trigger exponential spread, which is when one infected person to all their contacts, and out from them to all their contacts.
"Gathering right now is a dangerous choice, even though it feels like the right choice right now, for so many reasons," says Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary of health for COVID-19 response at DOH. "We all feel that, but it's just not safe at this time. There is hope for more in-person connection later in 2021, but we aren't there yet."
The key concerns remain overburdening health care establishments, and sickening high-risk populations such as those with underlying illness and those older than 60. If hospitals are too full, that puts everyone at another potential risk in emergency care situations, when an unexpected need comes up for heart attacks, strokes, car wrecks as well as care for people with other immediate health care needs.
Mentally preparing for an emotional response is what can support the goal of preventing the spread of COVID-19 to medically vulnerable people.
"There are several ways to do this politely and kindly," says behavioral health psychologist Dr. Kira Mauseth, about declining an invitation to gather. "Saying no effectively starts with just that – saying no. A simple, direct response is the best way to make yourself understood and closes the door for negotiations. Offer alternatives, be honest, don't feel pressured to keep the conversation going, and show them the facts if they have questions."
Health officials remind all that the best tools are still the same: social distancing, masks, hand washing, outdoor interactions favored over indoor gatherings of any kind.
Providence received vaccines recently and started vaccinating healthcare workers. Dr. George Diaz, chief infectious disease expert at the hospital, was one of the first. He said in the Dec. 22 JIC meeting that the vaccination went well.
"I was one of the five people that was vaccinated. It was a simple process. The vaccine was just like any other vaccine, and the only side effects I had since then as a little bit of a sore arm. I didn’t experience any of the other mild effects that some people have which include mild headache and mild fever. And interestingly the vaccination clinic that we’re doing at our hospital is located essentially on hospital premises, so we have access to rapid response teams, and we’ve been vaccinating people who have a history of anaphylactic reaction," Diaz said.
Anaphylactic reaction is a drastic and dangerous allergic reaction that requires immediate care, usually with adrenaline and antihistamines. Diaz was addressing a concern of the new vaccine, that a small number of severe allergic reactions have occurred.
"Among the dozen or so caregivers we’ve vaccinated in this setting, we haven’t seen any adverse effects which is really encouraging. We believe that the vaccine is safe and we encourage the entire public to receive it once it’s available."
As the vaccination effort unfolds, New Year's Eve and the simple urge to gather will come up. Some suggestions from DOH can ease the blow, after again turning down a gathering:
• Organize online gatherings. Some ideas are to do cookie decorating or a movie watching party, connecting online for togetherness.
• Drop off gifts or treats for friends and family at their doorsteps ("take and bake" treats allow high-risk people are free to kill germs, by baking).
• Favor outdoor activities such as hiking or snowshoeing. Travel to those activities with people inside your home, to avoid contact with people outside of your "bubble" of usual contacts, and reduce risk of asymptomatic spread. If activities are done with members outside your household, wear a mask, keep your distance, and keep groups very small.
The state ban on indoor gatherings is so far extended to Jan. 4. Those who gather at all are required to quarantine for 14 days prior to the gathering, and outdoor gatherings are limited to five people outside of your home, in a space where people can stay six feet apart. More information is listed here: https://bit.ly/38FwxVs.
"It's never too late to make a good choice," adds Dr. Mauseth, "even though that choice might feel hard right now."