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According to the latest reporting, King County has seen nearly a 50-percent increase in COVID-19 cases over the past week. As of the end of this week, King County hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are also increasing. Overall clinical capacity across UW Medicine (and the rest of the state) remains a challenge, but I’m confident that we’ll be prepared — even as I write this message, our UW Medicine teams are gearing up for flu season and its impact on inpatient and outpatient facilities. As one can imagine, having influenza and COVID-19 circulating at the same time will create additional challenges.

The Omicron coronavirus variant (B.1.1.529) was discovered in three people residing in three separate counties across the state: Pierce, King and Thurston. These cases were confirmed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) in partnership with our own UW Medicine Virology Laboratory. We’re keeping a close eye on this developing situation at UW Medicine, sequencing and screening every positive COVID-19 test. So far, we have not seen additional cases, but I suspect that it is only a matter of days or weeks until we see more.

As a reminder, the best protection against COVID-19 — and known variants — is still vaccination. On that front, we’re doing quite well across our operations. Since we began offering pediatric vaccines to those eligible between ages 5 and 11, more than 27,000 children have received at least one vaccine shot at UW Medicine.

Likewise, boosters are a helpful step to staying safe and healthy and to preventing further transmission. Getting boosted is likely even more important versus Omicron. Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration and CDC authorized a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 16 and 17, when previously boosters were only for those age 18 and over. There’s early evidence to support that boosters provide added protection against COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. To this point, we have provided over 67,000 vaccinated adults and teens with third doses or booster shots. Let me emphasize: if you haven’t had a booster and you are eligible, now is the time to get this done.

While all of this is positive news for vaccination, we also know that the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus is to continue to follow all our safety protocols (vaccinations, masking, distancing and staying home if you have symptoms). Using all of these layers together provides the best defense for individuals and our community.

Something to keep in mind if you do venture out: King County now requires all restaurants, including smaller establishments with 12 or fewer seats, to check vaccination status. Full vaccination is required to go to gyms, theaters, live music venues, etc., within King County. Vaccination is also required for outdoor events with more than 500 people.

One way to make vaccination checks easier and more convenient is to add your COVID-19 vaccination card to Apple Health/Apple Wallet if you use an iPhone. (For parents, this is an easy way to keep a record of your children’s vaccination status all in one place with your own, as well.) Personally, I’m loving this new tech tip and find it really easy to use.

To register, go to on your iPhone and follow the steps from there. There are a few requirements to make this work:

  • Being Covid-19 vaccinated in Washington State (although other states have similar access)
  • iPhone with IOS 15.1 or later
  • Installed Apple Wallet App
  • Installed Apple Health App

Today’s update also includes:

  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • Vaccination Summary
  • Employee and Family COVID-19 Testing

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Inpatient Census 12.10.21

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 176,448 total confirmed cases and 2,125 deaths as of Thursday, Dec. 9. The number of new positive tests is currently at 80.4/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = substantial).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 693,335 confirmed cases and 9,535 deaths as of Dec. 8.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 125,961 new cases, 49,458,520 total cases and 790,766 deaths as of Dec. 9.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 267,865,289 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,285,888 deaths as of Dec. 10.

UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Dec. 9

UW Medicine Vaccination Summary 12.10.21

Employee and family COVID-19 testing

We encourage all employees and families to be tested if you have symptoms or believe you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. You and your family can easily access information about how to schedule a COVID-19 test by visiting the Employee Resources page on the website and clicking on the COVID-19 Testing Access quick link. Testing is easy and helps slow transmission of the virus.

In closing, though we are experiencing the shortest days of the year and weather that tends to keep us huddled indoors, I want to take this opportunity to remind you that the Winter Solstice is fast approaching. We’ll soon see longer days and more opportunities to bask in sunshine (or at least natural light) and ideally spend quality time outdoors. Just as we have for the last (nearly) two years, we’ll continue to get through all of this together.

To longer, sunnier (and maybe snowier) days ahead!


John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine