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Snohomish County not ready for Phase 2 on June 1, health officials say

Health officials say Snohomish County doesn’t meet Phase 2 requirements for coronavirus activity, contact tracing and testing.

Snohomish County officials said Friday while the county has made strides containing the coronavirus crisis, it is not on track to move onto Phase 2 of recovery at the beginning of June.

“We're headed in the right direction, but we certainly will not meet those criteria by June 1,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.

Phase 2 of Washington’s four-phase recovery plan allows for increased outdoor recreation, small group gatherings of five or fewer, hair salons and 50% capacity at restaurants. As of Friday, 14 counties were approved to move to Phase 2, and 11 other counties were eligible to apply.

The state has said June 1 is the earliest the state would move on to Phase 2.

RELATED: Island County businesses eager to move to Phase 2 of state reopening plan

Snohomish County’s three sticking points are increasing testing capacity, beefing up contact tracing staffing and reducing the number of new cases, according to Snohomish Health District Health Officer Chris Spitters.

Spitters said he didn’t think Snohomish County would be far off from the disease activity goal by June 1, but that the county wouldn’t make it on that date.

“This is the one that's really, I think, the bottleneck, if you will,” Spitters said.

If containment and community efforts go well, Spitters said he hoped the county could apply for a variance “sometime in the month of June.”

Here’s where Snohomish County stands on the five criteria for Phase 2.

Disease activity

To get to Phase 2, counties need to have fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day span.

In Snohomish County, that works out to 82 new cases in two weeks. However, over the last 14 days Snohomish County saw 308 new cases.

“Things continue to get better, but we're still not there,” Spitters said.


To move onto phase 2, tests must have a 2% positivity rate, meaning counties are administering 50 tests for every positive case. Spitters said Snohomish County is administering about 20-25 tests per positive case.

“That's more of a yellow light but headed in the right direction,” said Spitters.

Spitters say the county is expanding testing capacity to add about 1,500 tests per week to the existing 2,500 weekly tests.

RELATED: CDC releases new guidelines for reopening schools, restaurants

Contact tracing

To meet state contact tracing requirements, Spitters said the county would need 120 fulltime staff, and right now they have 30. Spitters said the county was looking to fill those jobs with the National Guard and through funding from the CARES Act.

New outbreaks

Snohomish County has one to two new long-term care outbreaks start weekly, but community-based outbreaks are “rare,” according to Spitters. This is within state guidelines.

Hospital capacity

Snohomish County is in “good shape” when it comes to hospital readiness, according to Spitters. The state requirements here are to have at least 20% surge capacity in case of a spike in hospitalizations and at least a 14-day supple of PPE.

Spitters stressed the way for Snohomish County to reach Phase 2 requirements was to reduce the number of people you come in contact with and follow the stay-at-home order.

He also hoped residents have “tempered expectations” about how quickly the reopening process will go.

“I don't know if we'll be there in September or August or October, but there's always the chance that we'll have to kind of turn back up the dial on some form of social distancing or other to resume control if things start to get out of hand again,” Spitters said.