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When is it safe to reopen schools? Snohomish County considers COVID-19 case rate

While the coronavirus case rate has been on the decline, health officials will consider certain conditions before classes in-person become a possibility.

Snohomish County coronavirus case rate numbers are going in the right direction, but health officials are taking a cautious approach to reopening classrooms.

Snohomish County Health Office Dr. Chris Spitters said at a statewide coronavirus briefing on Tuesday that he encourages "taking a one-step-at-a-time approach, every three weeks or so pausing... to see if there are any ill effects in COVID transmission."

Many districts, including those in Snohomish County, have started the school year remotely to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Last month, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said that reopening the schools are up to county health officials and local school districts.

"The governor's kept this as a local decision, and what they're looking at is that high risk, above 75 cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period. The middle is 25 to 75 cases," Reykdal said.

Reykdal said to have high confidence locally, districts are looking to get their numbers down to no more than 25 new cases per 100,000 population over a 14-day period. 

In Snohomish County, the two-week case rate through Sept.12 was down to 43.5 cases per 100,000.

Spitters said the county would see where things stand a few weeks after Labor Day. If the rate holds, he would recommend a plan for some level of in-person learning in Snohomish County.

He said there should be no "significant change in direction of the COVID numbers, and no particular school is having a problem. Then they can look at starting to layer in elementary schools in that district."

Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that while the declining of cases is encouraging, he would not guess when school would be back in the classroom.

"We hope that this reduction in infection will continue. If it does, obviously at some point are going back into the classroom, but when that is, I can't give you a prognosis."

The governor added that when it comes to coronavirus, he is dedicated to listening to health officials and looking at the science.

Tuesday, Washington state reported another 327 coronavirus cases. That brings the confirmed cases up to 80,465. The Department of Health reported nine additional deaths, bringing the state death toll to 2,015.