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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Waiting to see the effects of Easter

Health officials: double down on prevention to prevent more illness, a return to Phase 2

 

Last updated 4/9/2021 at 9:20am



Since the last count on April 5, 56 people in Mill Creek have died of COVID-19 as the vaccination effort rolls ahead, and variants are spreading for a virus that is still, in its original form, considered historically new.

And while mutations of COVID-19 have not yet rung the alarm bell for enough increased danger and transmissibility to close anything down again, the standard pandemic protocols remain in-place, as infection rates rise.

“We were already headed in the wrong direction” before Easter, said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers in the April 6 Joint Information Commission’s weekly briefing.

On April 20, health officials will see the result of what happened on Easter. If numbers increase, that will show whether people followed standard pandemic precautions, needed until the pandemic is declared over. The day for a full lift of restrictions is not anticipated anytime soon.

“We are very clearly not out of the woods. That 30% of the population with initiated vaccine, 18% completed, simply isn't a sufficient proportion to interrupt the transmission of this very difficult-to-contain virus,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.“We may not see a real slowing until up to 80 or more percent of the population is fully vaccinated.”

Health officials chant the same mantra as when the pandemic began: mask up, wash up, stay apart.

In this phase of the pandemic, they add the advice to get vaccinated, and April 15 is the date when all adults and people over the age of 16 all become eligible. The estimated pace remains at about 40,000 to 50,000 doses per week, Spitters said. And while vaccine supply still cannot keep up with demand, the capacity level for mass vaccination sites in Snohomish County is pointed toward the goal of always being ready for too more vaccine. If more vaccines arrive than anticipated, the capacity to deliver is in-place.

“Our goal has been to have more capacity to deliver vaccine,” Somers said. “We want to lean forward on that, and stay in front of that, so any increase of vaccine that we get were able to handle quickly and efficiently. … I do not expect we're going to max out our capacity.”

Severe illness, hospitalization

Dangerous illness still strikes the usual risk-groups, with the highest risk for older adults and people with underlying illness.

The ratio on survival for those with severe illness has improved, but only one-third survive once put on a ventilator. As of April 7, in Snohomish County, 32 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and three were on a ventilator.

The concern from health officials remains consistent since the pandemic began: capacity at hospitals is of high concern. If people and supplies are overburdened, the community danger goes up not just for COVID-19 patients, but for those who have heart attacks, strokes, car wrecks and other medical trauma, with resources directed at the urgency of the virus. Ongoing hospital care that is non-urgent gets pushed out if COVID-19 cases overtake resources as well.

Spitters adds that prevention is not just aimed at avoiding death and hospitalization. One-third of those infected are still experiencing challenges three to six months later, Spitters said.

Mutations

Variants of concern are circulating in Snohomish County with the B.1.1.7 variant appearing to be the dominant mutation of COVID-19. The DOH reports on those variants weekly. The April 1 report showed almost 90 positive cases of the variants are now in the county. The B.1.1.7 variant is more likely to spread among children, but children still remain at a lower risk for severe illness.

Variants of concern, per the DOH, are those mutations that are being watched for the data that shows if they are more infectious or more dangerous.

The next step up in severity, if it ever occurs, is a “variant of high consequence.” That would be a mutation that has clear evidence of being more dangerous and more resistant to current treatments and preventions.

“Currently there are no SARS-CoV-2 variants that rise to the level of high consequence,” the DOH states.

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