Snohomish County spike in COVID cases could shift Safe Start phase into reverse

As coronavirus cases continue to trend higher in Snohomish County, officials and considering taking an unprecedented action in reversing from phase two in the state's Safe Start plan back to phase one.

“A week or so ago, I would have thought it was a remote possibility,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “I don’t feel that way anymore. I think going back to phase one is clearly one of the options that could be in front of us.”

Relieved by the newfound freedom, people constrained for months started streaming into Snohomish County restaurants when they were allowed to open at 50% capacity on June 5, the first day of phase two.

But health officials say since that day, the numbers of COVID-19 cases started trending back up.

275 people in Snohomish County tested positive for COVID-19 in the last several days, according to county records. The trend equals 42 new cases per 100,000 people, which is the highest rate in two months, and far higher than the standards set by the state to move from phase one to phase two.

Now, county health officials are keeping an eye on how many are hospitalized with the illness.

"I can see the possibility of a call to go back to phase one," Somers said. "It would be extremely difficult to do."

Some owners of Snohomish County restaurants say a regression to a "takeout only" phase could devastate business.

"I just heard it today, and I just hired all my employees back," said Steve Dorn, who has been a Snohomish County restaurant owner for twenty years. His Mill Creek "Cove Restaurant and Lounge" survived,

serving only serving takeout during phase one, before thriving during phase two, when all his longtime regulars returned.

"To hear that news today just took the wind out of my sails," he said. "I mean I can't imagine laying everyone off again, and going back to takeout only. I don't see why shutting down restaurants is the fix for the numbers. It might not have even been the cause."

Dorn says he knows no one in the restaurant business in Snohomish County--customer or worker--who has been infected with COVID-19, and he wonders if people will resist a rollback, where freedom was once granted.

“I hate seeing us pushed back to lockdown again,” he said. “I don’t think it would go to go over well.”