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Lynnwood Times Person of the Year: Dr. Chris Spitters

By Noel Pai-Young  |  Lynnwood Times Staff

Snohomish Wash., February 18, 2021 – The Lynnwood Times proudly presents the 2020 Person of the Year Award to Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer of Snohomish County. Dr. Spitters has been a key player in managing the coronavirus pandemic and assessing when it is appropriate for the county to move forward with Governor Jay Inslee’s reopening plan. His efforts have kept Snohomish County residents safe from the coronavirus.

Dr. Spitters commendably dedicates the Person of the Year Award to the staff of the Snohomish Health District, local governments, health care systems, and Snohomish County residents and businesses. In a statement to the Lynnwood Times, he stressed that thousands have sacrificed so much this past year to work together to fight the virus. 

“Thousands in this County have sacrificed time with friends and families, lost jobs or businesses, or have lost loved ones to COVID,” wrote Dr. Spitters. “That is not lost on me or any of us, and it is also why I shy away from recognition like this. There are so many worthy people and organizations in this community that are just as deserving, if not more so.”

When Snohomish County was approved for Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee’s phased approach to returning to normalcy in June last year, Dr. Spitters stated, “We will be closely monitoring the data and metrics to ensure we are able to accommodate the potential increase in cases, and adapt as needed, as we begin to open Snohomish County back up.” 

Dr. Spitters was taken aback when the first recognized case of COVID-19 in the United States appeared in Snohomish County. 

“It was unbelievable, plain and simple,” recounted Dr. Spitters. “We were all shocked and had a lot of anxiety based on reports we were hearing from overseas. This pandemic has turned out to be everything and more than we feared in terms of scope and impact on society. In many cases, it’s honestly exceeded what we thought was possible.”

Dr. Spitters and his team were understandably anxious as information was coming out. However, he shared that fear surrounding the uncertainty has settled and much more is known about the county’s increased knowledge around the virus and its properties.

Seeing his role as a duty and a responsibility, Dr. Spitters considers the short and long-term effects of his decisions. He also models resiliency and compassion — stating it is important to keep focus as the objective is to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases.

As a powerful figure in the public eye, Dr. Spitters has faced widespread public criticism regarding pandemic-induced challenges such as isolation, and economic hardship arising in response to county orders created with the publics’ health and wellbeing in mind. He shared that juggling the county’s pandemic-response and people’s reactions to the response is a balancing act. 

“You need to listen to what people are saying and take that into account,” said Spitters. “We try to address those concerns where can or use the feedback to help inform future decisions when possible. At the same time, we need to keep a focus on what our north star is. In public health, that’s to control and prevent the spread of any dangerous, contagious or infectious diseases. “

Dr. Spitters reinforced the credit of his success to his team and the community. 

“The thing with public health is that it can be hard to prove when control efforts work,” continued Spitters. “You can’t always quantify what didn’t happen as a result of our efforts. What has kept me sane is not hoarding responsibility or decision-making. I have a great team and I rely upon their expertise and input.”

Stephanie Wright, Chair of Board of Health and County Council says she holds gratitude and appreciation for Dr. Spitters’ daily commitment to serving the team and all of Snohomish County — picked off of his merit, he exceeded expectations. She described Spitters as, “approachable,” and, “a true team player.” 

Katie Curtis, Prevention Services Director at Snohomish Health District and Carrie Parker, Prevention Services Assistant Director at Snohomish Health District, both reiterated Dr. Spitters’ recollection of the beginning of the pandemic being a shock — with gruesome hours and distressing rapid changes to their workdays. 

Shawn Frederick, Administrative Officer of the Snohomish Health District commented, “Dr. Spitters’ calm and steadfast leadership throughout the pandemic has been critical to what we’ve overcome and accomplished in 2020.” 

According to the Snohomish Health Districts website, as of February 17, 2021, there has been a total of 28,352 confirmed COVID cases and tragically 492 related deaths in the county within the last year — numbers that could be much higher if we didn’t have mitigation to the effects of the virus in place. 

Please join the Lynnwood Times in thanking Dr. Chris Spitters, his team, and the community of Snohomish County. 

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