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'It's not going to be over soon': Snohomish County braces for long battle with coronavirus

Health officials in Snohomish County say the pandemic could last "a year or two" and advise everyone to do their part to stop the spread.

EVERETT, Wash. — Snohomish County health officials are telling the public to prepare for a long, difficult battle with coronavirus as the number of new cases continues to surge.

"It's not over. It's not going to be over soon," said county health officer, Dr. Chris Spitters. "We're going to be dealing with this for many, many months to come. Possible even a year or two."

For a time, Snohomish County was "ground zero" for coronavirus with what was believed to be the first reported case in the U.S. back in January.

After a three-month lockdown, cases dropped significantly. Now that the state is reopening there has been a significant surge. 

The county recorded 200 new cases since last Friday alone, according to the Department of Health.

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At the start of June, just before Washington started reopening, Snohomish County hit a low of about 20 cases per 100,000 residents. Since then, that number has more than doubled to 53. 

The preferred number to be able to move on to Phase 3 is 25 cases per 100,000 residents.

Spitters said young people, often gathering for large parties, are driving the spike in infections.

They now represent 40% of the county's new cases.

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People going back to work are making up the bulk of the additional outbreaks.

"Workplaces are going to be the leading edge of transmission as people are heading back to work, so we have to expect cases are going to occur in the workplace," said Spitters.

To that end, Spitters is once again banging the drum about mask-wearing and social distancing. He's also asking employers and employees to follow state guidelines about reopening and cooperate with health officials conducting contact tracing.

"This is critical. We don't want to be enforcers. We want to be guiders. In the end our interest is in protecting the whole community," said Spitters. "It's all in our shared hands, but we need a whole society cooperating to get through this."

There is a bit of good news: hospitalizations in the county remain stable, and the elderly now make up just 16% of new cases as opposed to a high of 40%.

Dr. Spitters said no one should expect to return to normal anytime soon.

"We really have to take a deep breath, stay with all the efforts, stay with the program and keep working together with the long view in sight."

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