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Quick Read:

  • UW Medicine plans to require universal masking in patient care areas during respiratory virus season based on metrics that are being developed with regional health systems.
  • The Employee Health flu vaccine campaign will begin on Sept. 25.
  • Employees should stay home when they have respiratory virus symptoms and also test for COVID-19.

With schools back in session and the weather turning towards fall, we are seeing a rise in COVID-19 infections across the state and locally. As expected, this is leading to an increase in hospitalizations for people with COVID-19 as well. Like last fall and winter, in the coming respiratory virus season we will likely be dealing with several epidemic respiratory viruses at the same time, including COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Looking towards the near future, we want to provide an update on our plans to protect our patients and each other during the respiratory virus season. These include our annual flu vaccine campaign, preparations for a new COVID-19 vaccine, and the reintroduction of universal masking as an important tool to keep our patients, our co-workers, and ourselves safe.

Employee Flu Vaccine Campaign: The annual flu vaccine remains the best way to reduce your risk from seasonal flu and potentially serious complications of infection. Our employee campaign, which begins on Sept. 25, 2023, makes it fast and convenient to get your shot and to record your compliance with the UW Medicine vaccine requirement. Please see the UW Medicine Influenza Prevention Program page for locations and hours for the vaccine clinics.

COVID-19 Vaccine: We expect that a new vaccine, which targets the variants currently circulating, will be approved this month. More information will be provided when it is available.

Stay Home When Sick: If you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, stay home and contact Employee Health via phone or email. You can check for COVID-19 with either a home antigen test (based on two samples over 48 hours) or a PCR test. If you test positive, you should also complete the UW Medicine Employee Health COVID-19 Contact Tracing Survey. Once you report a positive test, you will immediately receive an email with details about isolation during your illness. For other respiratory virus infections, like colds and flu, please stay home until your symptoms have improved, you don’t have a fever, and you can control any coughing, sneezing or runny nose symptoms.

Masking Requirements: UW Medicine, along with other health care systems across Western Washington, will return to universal masking in patient care areas annually during respiratory virus season. This is a precautionary measure that will help us reduce the risk of exposure to and transmission of respiratory viruses. We are working with regional health systems, public health and the Northwest Healthcare Response Network to identify metrics that all systems can use to trigger mask use, such as Emergency Department visits, positivity rates and hospitalization rates. We anticipate that masking will become part of our annual response to respiratory virus season and continue to be an important mitigation measure during COVID-19 surges and outbreaks.

For more information about the respiratory virus season, see COVID-19 and the flu this fall (with Dr. John Lynch). Thank you for your partnership to keep our patients, staff, and loved ones safe during this fall and winter.


UW Medicine Infection Prevention & Employee Health Teams