Snohomish County likely moving back a phase May 2 as COVID cases, hospitalizations rise

Public health officials in Snohomish County warned Tuesday that the county likely will move back to Phase 2 of the state's pandemic reopening plan on May 2 — and could even move back two phases if case counts and hospitalizations continue rising at their current rate. 

"Going back a phase is painful. Back two phases is even worse. That’s where we’re headed in the next two weeks if we don’t change this," Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said. "I’m very concerned and it appears we’re on our way to a 4th wave of COVID."

To stay in Phase 3, larger counties like Snohomish must have less than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period and have fewer than five new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a one-week period. They revert back to Phase 2 if they fail to meet both guidelines.

The metrics are evaluated every three weeks.  

Spitters said as of Tuesday, the county is at 200 cases per 100,000 people and 4.6 per 100,000 for hospitalizations. 

There were 1,700 new cases over a 14-day period, Spitters said, more than doubling in less than a month. The majority of new hospitalizations are people younger than 60. 

RELATED: Pierce County's rollback to Phase 2 could impact start of high school basketball, wrestling seasons

It's an "alarming reminder of how this virus can unravel our progress in two-three weeks," Spitters said. 

Case rates are up in all age groups, according to public health data. People between 20 and 49 years old account for more than any other group. The county hasn't seen a surge in COVID-related deaths.

Vaccines are working, Spitters said, but with 37 percent of all Snohomish County adults and 23 percent of all residents vaccinated, "we're far from being out of the woods." 

"We've made great progress. There's just not enough immunity in the county," Spitters said. 

If Snohomish County reverts back to Phase 2, it will join Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman in reduced capacity for businesses, sports and other activities. 

Under Phase 2, restaurants, gyms, worship centers and retail stores can operate at 25 percent capacity, and large gatherings are reduced to 200 people.

Under Phase 1, indoor dining and social gatherings are prohibited and retail stores must operate at 25 percent capacity, among other restrictions

"The trajectory is going the wrong way," Spitters said. "It's time for everyone to step up efforts."

Spitters said if people continue to wear masks outside the home and use social distancing, "we have a reasonable chance not to go back."

According to the state Department of Health, Snohomish County has reported 32,767 confirmed cases, 2,137 hospitalizations and 561 deaths as of Tuesday. 

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