Snohomish Health District temporarily closed COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites due to weather

Freezing temperatures and more snow in the forecast for western Washington forced a temporary cancellation of several COVID-19 testing and vaccine sites in the North Sound. 

The Snohomish Health District paused all of its locations through New Year’s Day, with plans to reopen two locations on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3.

Dr. Chris Spitters, the health officer for the Snohomish Health District, said the cancellations were done in the interest of safety for staff and community members.

"Getting to work, and being out there in the cold and then having all those people out on the road trying to get to the testing site is just a recipe for another kind of problem," said Spitters.

The county’s health officer said, if it’s possible, people should try to find another available site to get tested, vaccinated and a booster shot soon. He said a steep rise in Omicron variant cases is causing concern going into the holiday weekend, and believes the surge will get worse in the New Year.

"I think things will continue to go up and quite substantially. And so with the New Year’s holiday coming, I think it’s a real reason for – I don’t want to be a stick in the mud – but it’s not a great time for us to be gathering with large numbers of people," said Spitters.

RELATED: Western Washington counties grapple with new surge of COVID infections

Lots people are planning to ring in 2022 with friends and family—one reason why testing sites operated by other agencies have been full all week. Spitters said a new year is not the time to let anyone’s guard down with the highly contagious Omicron. 

"Even though the individual consequences may be none or minimal, overall the societal consequences and the impact on an already ailing and exhausted healthcare system. And the schools and other aspects of our critical infrastructure can really be devastating," said Spitters.

In the week of Dec. 19, there were 1,184 cases reported to the Snohomish Health District. In the week of December 26, there were 2,719 cases reported—a 130% increase. Spitters said in most of the cases, the Omicron variant was detected.

"It’s spreading so rapidly that we’ve really got to do everything we can, both in public health and society in order to prevent a hospital surge that could really disable our healthcare system," said Spitters.

With the county’s testing and vaccine sites closed for now, Spitters urged people not to relax their COVID-19 safety measures, like masking and distancing, during the cold snap and holiday.

"We’re heading into a difficult time. I think it’s going to be a very difficult several months here going forward until we get through this next wave. And it could be as difficult as any of the prior ones," said Spitters. "Just when we thought maybe we were getting to the end of this, there’s another blow. But we’ve shown we can do it, let’s do it again. And, we’re really going to have to be patient and persevere through the next several months."

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