Beacon Staff 

Mask up: P1 variant is here; COVID-19 cases spike

Health officials call for action to turn it around


Last updated 4/5/2021 at 7:47am

Courtesy of Snohomish Health District

Infection rates are climbing and health officials warn that if numbers do not turn around quickly, hospital capacity is in danger of getting to high.

Health officials are calling for help getting COVID-19 numbers back down.

After nine weeks of steady decreases, the case rate has increased for the second week in a row. It is now at 92 per 100,000 residents for the two-week period ending March 27.

"We're going back in the wrong direction again, but we have an opportunity to turn it around ourselves before a retreat in recovery is forced upon us," said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District.

Snohomish County could slide back to Phase 2 in Governor Inslee's Roadmap to Recovery if cases continue upward. This means a return to restrictions on business and activities.

Test positivity has risen from 5% to 7% over the past couple of weeks, and on March 29, 15 residents were hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications; three required mechanical ventilation to breathe. As of April 2, 26 were hospitalized and three on ventilators.

"We need you to act now to protect people's health and keep us in Phase 3," Spitters said. "Please celebrate wisely and make safe decisions, especially with upcoming holidays and spring breaks from school."

Health officials say to mask up whenever around people you don't live with, indoors or outdoors. Ensure windows or doors are open for indoor gatherings, to increase ventilation. Keep physical distance between yourself and others, and make sure to wash hands often. Defer non-essential gatherings until the community is further down the road in getting vaccinated.

Variants of concern in Snohomish County and Washington state increase concern even more. The weekly variant report from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) published April 1 showed changes the P.1 variant is in Snohomish County. Early data says Moderna is showing effectiveness against P1, STAT news reports. Reuters reports that Astrazaneca is effective against P1 as well.

First identified in travelers from Brazil, the P.1 variant has 17 unique mutations. There is evidence to suggest that some of the mutations may affect the ability of antibodies (natural and from vaccine) to recognize and neutralize the virus in laboratory experiments. Early reports are promising regarding vaccine and variants, but data is limited.

"The expansion of these more transmissible variants further highlights the importance of reinforcing all of our prevention efforts and the urgency of making rapid progress in the vaccination effort," Spitters said.


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