Beacon Staff 

Snohomish County looks to COVID-19 metrics for re-opening plan

Reduction in infection rates, hospitalizations needed to advance


Last updated 1/13/2021 at 3:47pm

Snohomish County businesses can watch for the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's not here yet.

Phasing into fully re-opened communities will occur based on four metrics for the Puget Sound Region that includes Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties. The move from phase one to two will be based on criteria around infection rates and hospital capacity.

For the week starting January 11, Snohomish County will fall under Phase one of the new roadmap to re-opening. This allows for some modest expansion of economic activity.

• Infection rates: based on number of cases per 100,000 people, in a 14-day period, phase advancement depends on a decrease of 10 percent in the usual measure used in rolling counts. That means a drop in cases per 100,000 population. The 14-day window is chosen based on how viruses behave: a who is exposed and becomes ill will most likely show symptoms within a 14-day window.

• Test positivity: the COVID-19 tests done to measure for infections must be less than 10% can be positive tests, for the most recent seven-day period.

• Hospital capacity: the total Intensive Care Unit occupancy must be less than 90% for the most recent seven-day period measured.

• Hospital admission: rates for newly admitted COVID-19 patients must show a decrease of 10 percent or greater per 100,000 in most recent 14-day period. The comparator is the 14-day period prior to that.

The Washington State Department of Health will compile updated data by region every Friday. Regions that meet all criteria are eligible to move to Phase 2 on the following Monday.

At present, Snohomish County and its region are only meeting three of the four criteria and are ineligible for advancement to the next phase.

Snohomish County is not quite there: The Puget Sound region needs to see a 10 percent or greater decrease in hospital admission rates per 100,000 when comparing two-week periods. The period from December 20 to January 2 saw a 1% increase in hospital admission rates across the region compared to the period from December 9 to December 19.

"Hospital trends usually follow two to three weeks after the number of COVID-19 infections increase. While it may take a few weeks before the new hospital admission rates decrease enough, the other metrics are in everyone's control today," said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. "Please be patient, keep masking up and social distancing when around people you don't live with, and keep those social bubbles as small as possible, and keep things outdoors or well ventilated."

Indoor gatherings with non-household members are still prohibited in our current phase. Health experts recommend adhering to that rule while also continuing mask use, good hand hygiene, and sanitization of often used surfaces, and stay six feet apart in public spaces.

Dr. Spitters adds that the seemingly favorable recent trends may reflect multiple factors. Truly sustained improvement is measurable with more time and more data. The factors that could decrease test numbers can include decreased test-seeking through the holidays, and delays in transmission of test results from laboratories to public health entities.

As the county works toward re-opening, the vaccination process is unfolding. In the first three weeks, just shy of 30,000 vaccines were distributed to 13 vaccine provider groups in Snohomish County. Another 8,600 doses had been allocated for this week, not including doses distributed to sovereign nations or through the Federal Pharmacy LTCF (Long Term Care Facility) program.

The Health District will begin reporting vaccine data at on Tuesdays.


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