Local officials address declaration of emergency regarding COVID-19 in Snohomish County

by Luke Putvin

A local declaration of emergency for Snohomish County was signed on March 4, 2020 by County Executive Dave Somers and others regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Somers, along with County Councilmember and Board of Health Chair Stephanie Wright, Interim Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters and several local mayors, gathered on March 5 to speak about the declaration of emergency.

Wright, who spoke first, encouraged everyone to follow the recommendations that Spitters was about to present. “We all need to be taking steps to stay healthy and keep others healthy too,” she said. “Anyone who is feeling ill, please stay home… I have confidence in the people of Snohomish County and our ability to take care of one another. This is the time to stay calm and be kind.”

Spitters said, “Proclamations like [this declaration of emergency] make it easier for us to work with our partners and use the best available strategies to keep our communities safe and healthy. We need this flexibility to respond to Covid-19. The situation continues to evolve rapidly.”

Lynnwood Times photo by Luke Putvin. Dr. Chris Spitters addressing the declaration of emergency on March 5, 2020.

He shared that there are currently 13 confirmed and presumptive cases, two probable cases, 37 possible cases awaiting test results and 14 individuals who tested negative. This is a total of 66 investigated cases thus far.

Spitters said that it is important to take action when it is shown that prevention strategies can make a large impact in slowing the increase of the virus in the short run and reduce the total numbers in the long run.

The following recommendations came from the best understanding of the new disease and guidance from the Center for Disease Control, the Washington State Department of Health and collogues at other local health jurisdictions. 

His recommendations began with reducing close contact with others, also called “social distancing.” This method becomes successful when combined with other techniques like washing hands and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. He also recommended avoiding non-essential large gatherings, which he defined as having 50 people or more.

“This is a good time to consider postponing events, if possible,” Spitters said.

He also encouraged workplaces to allow employees to work from home if possible, and if that is not possible, then to limit interactions with large groups.

“People who are sick with a cough and fever should not attend work until 72 hours after the fever has resolved or seven days after the illness has begun, whichever is longer,” he said.

As of today, the Snohomish Health District is not requiring school closures in the area.

It is also recommended to contact health-care providers by telephone if you are worried about symptoms. Even if you are feeling well, you should avoid hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes, Spitters said. If you need to go to any of these, limit your time there and stay at least six feet away from patients. 

“The number of cases is expected to change frequently,” Spitters said. As a result, there will be twice daily updates on the Snohomish Health District’s website at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“Remember that this is a mild or moderate illness for 80% of cases. Though the disease is new, it is caused by a respiratory virus, and we have proven methods to help prevent the spread of these kinds of illnesses,” Spitters said.

Executive Somers acknowledged the health district and the health community as a whole for their work. 

“Our role at the county is going to be to support these officials who have the science and the information to really guide our actions and give us suggestions for action in the future. We’re going to be very much in a support role,” Somers said.

Lynnwood Times photo by Luke Putvin. County Councilmember Stephanie Wright (left) and County Executive Dave Somers (right).

Somers also answered a question clarifying what signing the declaration of emergency did besides allowing for smoother communication between partners.

“For the county, it allows us to streamline procurement policies. For supplies that might be needed by first responders, we can get around them more quickly. It does give me some authority to make decisions based on recommendations by the health officer… It just really allows us to move quicker when needed,” he responded.

One of the mayors at the event was Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith. 

As of March 5 at 8:30 a.m., Mayor Smith said the city is closing the Lynnwood Senior Center and cancelling all its trips and activities for the time being. She said that she doesn’t know how long this will last, but that it will likely be at least a couple of weeks.

Smith also signed the declaration of emergency. “It supports our Emergency Operations Center that is staffed and trained to be responsive and is activated whenever we’re directed to or need to,” she said.

Another step the city is taking is the deep disinfecting through all the city’s facilities; this includes customer counter, door handles and other frequently touched areas in city facilities. “We’re also collaborating with Edmonds School District, Edmonds Community College, the PFD, Homage, the library and the Lynnwood Rec Center, all these places where people are gathering.” They are in collaboration to come up with solutions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Between the cities in South Snohomish County, first responders are in communication so that if any first responders have to stay home due to COVID-19, cities can pull from each other to keep communities safe.

To watch the livestream of the conference and to keep up to date on COVID-19, visit

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