For the last few weeks, many of us have thought or said, “It’s been a year since …” It’s been a year since we learned that COVID-19 was here in Washington. A year since the tragic outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland. A year since schools closed. I have certainly been feeling this way. Do you remember how you felt a year ago when it became clear COVID-19 was spreading undetected around us — and likely had been for weeks? I’ll never forget it. In facing that unbelievable realization, not knowing yet the potential of this novel virus, I remember feeling energized. Not only by my own professional interests or curiosity, but also by the resolve and spirit of all of the people who are the UW Medicine community. It was the realization that we had an important role to play.
It was exactly one year ago this week that we activated our Incident Command System (ICS) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak locally. One year later, we’re still fully engaged in responding to the pandemic, but we can all see the light starting to show at the end of the tunnel. We have all done so much.
At UW Medicine, we’ve now administered more than 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, processed more than 2 million COVID-19 tests and discharged more than 1,000 people who recovered from COVID-19. Another approved vaccine, this one from Johnson & Johnson, is expected to become widely available soon and will only increase our ability to combat the spread.
All these developments are reasons for optimism and gratitude. The pandemic has been exhausting for all of us, but I also feel a continued sense of energy — and that’s still because of you. Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of seeing UW Medicine staff, students, trainees and faculty rise to the occasion, over and over again. From the early days of the pandemic when our teams were testing in homes and triaging in long-term care facilities to the later surges that brought the full brunt of the crisis to our doorstep, I’ve been continually impressed by your daily acts of selflessness and sacrifice. It has made me proud to work for UW Medicine and inspired me to keep going.
We have much work left to do before putting the pandemic behind us, but a year in, I’m grateful to have all of you as colleagues.
Today’s update includes:
• Local/National/Global Epidemiology
• Vaccination Summary
• Allergies and the COVID-19 Vaccines
• Staff Exposure Policy Update
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 82,818 total cases and 1,412 deaths as of March 5. The number of new positive tests is currently at 90/14 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 1.0 (estimate range: 0.4 – 1.6).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 323,839 confirmed cases and 5,032 deaths as of March 3. Of the 5,344,402 people who have been tested, 6.1% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 65,424 new cases, 28,580,198 total COVID-19 cases and 517,224 deaths as of March 4.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 115,289,961 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,564,560 deaths as of March 5.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of March 4
*Total Doses Given: 114,714. Site numbers represent total doses administered to employees, patients and community members.
Allergies and the COVID-19 Vaccines
In case you missed it, the UW School of Medicine hosted a webinar this week covering common allergic reactions associated with the COVID-19 vaccines. We know many healthcare providers have been receiving questions from patients and community members about what to expect after vaccination. This session addresses uncertainties around side effects and hesitancy some may feel about receiving the vaccine. Watch a replay of the Allergies and the COVID-19 Vaccines webinar.
For up-to-date vaccine information, please remember to consult Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines for Employees on The Huddle.
Staff Exposure Policy Update
Healthcare workers who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine following a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. All exposures should continue to be reported to Employee Health for risk evaluation and tracking. See Staff Exposure Policy for details. Please consult your supervisor or manager for any questions or clarifications on policy changes.
With all that we’ve been through over the past year, some people are finding solidarity in the idea of completely forgetting 2020. I can certainly empathize with this feeling. It was (and continues to be) awful on many levels. Reaching this one-year anniversary of our COVID-19 response and activation, however, provides a moment to pause and reflect on all that we accomplished together, for our patients and community, during a really difficult time. It is also a good time to check in with your colleagues, friends and family to see how they are doing.
The past year isn’t canceled. It’s a historic turning point, something in which I hope you can all find some pride. Looking back, it shows how when we come together to serve a broader issue, progress and change follows. We have done things that, one year ago, we thought were impossible.
Thank you, as always, for continuing to put our patients first and inspiring all of us in our daily work.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine