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Health officials plead with public to take precautions as Puget Sound COVID cases surge

At least four current school outbreaks have been reported across Snohomish County.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — The numbers are not good.

In Snohomish County, coronavirus cases are up in every area and every age group including school children.

At least four school outbreaks are reported across the county, right now.

Fifty cases are reported at a Monroe long-term care facility.

"There's a lesson in this for all of us about this virus," said Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters. "They appear to be doing everything by the book and still the virus is making its way around the facility."

Pierce County has our area's highest infection rate at 132 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Snohomish County at 121.

That's a 20% increase from just last week.

King County is still 4 times higher than target maximum rate of 25 cases per 100,000 people.

Health officials said the numbers remain so high because while 90% of us are wearing masks in public, only half are doing so with family or friends at home.

"The new battleground is in our homes," Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday. "We have to mask up, no matter what."

The numbers are creeping toward the pandemic's peak nearly eight months ago, raising questions of another potential shutdown.

"You have to remember that at this rate last time we had shut down society," Spitters said. "We don't want to have to resort to that. The consequences are not benign."

"If there is another round of restrictions it will be more targeted at specific activities rather than broad brushes as it was the first time around," Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said.

Adding to the concern is word that hospitals in neighboring Idaho could soon be overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, possibly needing to send their patients to Washington and Oregon.

Idaho's governor still has not issued a mask mandate.

"I wish them well," Inslee said. "but I sure do wish they'd help us out by wearing masks."

RELATED: Northern Idaho hospital may send patients to Seattle, Portland amid COVID surge

A long winter appears on the horizon.

Inslee also announced a partnership with other western states to independently examine any vaccine that comes on the market to make sure  it is truly safe.

Inslee said that process could take just a few days after official FDA approval.

RELATED: Washington joins Western states review group on COVID-19 vaccine

Even with a vaccine, however, Spitters said it will be another 9 to 12 months of mask wearing and social distancing before we can say that the coronavirus is behind us.

"Discipline, patience and commitment to the community is critical at this point, and for a long time to come," he said.