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Snohomish County scales back COVID-19 response as fifth wave looms

Health officials are hopeful the fifth wave will be "small."

EVERETT, Wash — With coronavirus largely contained, officials in Snohomish County held their final media briefing of the pandemic on Tuesday, 539 days after America's first known case of coronavirus was reported at an Everett hospital.

It was a moment when Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers was finally able to pause for a moment and reflect on all we've been through.

"This has been a challenge to all of us like no other we've ever experienced," he said. "We are stronger and more resilient today as a result."

As of July 12, Snohomish County registered 625 deaths from COVID-19 and 38,074 confirmed cases.

Since the start of the pandemic, Snohomish County workers logged 80,000 hours responding to the crisis; about 21 million pieces of PPE were purchased; and 875,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered. About 425,000 people are fully vaccinated.

But County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters took the final media briefing to send some sobering news.

"I want to stress that the COVID-19 pandemic is not - I repeat not - over," he said.

Spitters pushed for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. He warned cases in the county are going up again as the delta variant spreads, mainly among the unvaccinated.

Cases are up 36% from last week, and that does not include all the cases from the Fourth of July.

"It's reasonable to anticipate we may be at the start of a hopefully small fifth COVID wave," Spitters said. "If unchecked, it could push an already strained hospital system beyond its capacity limits."

As the county moves forward, PPE is now being stockpiled in locations all across the county for quicker access. 

Two COVID-19 testing sites will remain open in Lynnwood and Everett. Preparations are underway for a mass vaccination site if boosters become necessary.

Masks and social distancing will still be required in schools.

Somers said he is confident the county is better prepared for any emergency than it was 539 days ago.

"There are still a lot of unknowns about COVID-19 but we have a system in place now to make sure we adjust and respond to whatever comes our way," he said.

The county's Emergency Communications Center is being scaled back substantially so officials can begin focusing on more imminent threats, like wildfires, smoke and the annual fall floods.