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As you know from my message earlier this week, the emergence of the new Omicron coronavirus variant (B.1.1.529) is a growing concern. Since then, the CDC has announced multiple cases of the variant detected here in the United States and has declared it to be a variant of concern (VOC).

Unfortunately, it’s likely only a matter of time before Omicron variant cases are found in our own community. While we know little about the variant, including whether it is more transmissible than the Delta variant and whether infection can lead to more severe outcomes, we continue to stress that vaccination remains our best overall defense, especially when combined with other measures like masking, against COVID-19 and identified variants.

To that end, if you haven’t received a booster vaccine, you can schedule your appointment through our online portal or, if you are a School of Medicine non-clinical employee, by calling 844.520.8700 to join our call-back list. While boosters are not required for employees at this time, I hope you will follow the latest CDC guidance and get your booster as soon as you can.

The emergence of the Omicron variant and its rapid spread is a stark reminder that global vaccine equity is crucial to the fight against COVID-19. As we continue to do our part here, it’s more important that all members of our community get vaccinated and, when the time comes, get boosters. As global vaccine distribution lags, we know now that variants developing in faraway places will eventually find their way here. We must be as prepared as possible.

With that, a reminder that as of Monday, December 6, we will implement our expanded visitor vaccination/testing mandate at all inpatient areas and clinics on UWMC hospital campuses. This process has worked well at Harborview and we expect the same with this next phase. Please continue to follow established protocols, including masking, physical distancing, staying home when possible and getting tested if you experience symptoms. All healthcare workers, visitors, family members and patients are required to wear procedural masks in UW Medicine clinical spaces — another preventive measure to ensure safety in and around our facilities.

Today’s update also includes:

  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • Employee and family COVID-19 testing

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 174,156 total confirmed cases and 2,096 deaths as of Thursday, Dec. 2. The number of new positive tests is currently at 72.2/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = substantial).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 684,930 confirmed cases and 9,380 deaths as of Wednesday, Dec. 1. As of Sept. 15, 9,842,443 people have been tested; due to an unexpected delay, DOH is not able to restart its testing reporting until approximately Dec. 30.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 129,818 new cases on Thursday, December 2, 48,628,787 total COVID-19 cases and 781,963 deaths.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard as of Friday, December 3 reports 263,563,622 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,232,562 deaths.

UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Dec. 3

*Site numbers show the number of employees, patients and community members who received vaccines and the total number of doses administered at each site.

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.

Finally, now that the holiday season is here, I ask again that you stay safe and healthy, taking extra precautins during gatherings and avoiding larger crowds if possible. As you know, colder weather can lead to riskier situations as we spend more time indoors and hospital occupancy remains constrained. The more we do to prevent any and all illness this time of year, the better off we’ll all be.

Bundle up and enjoy the chilly weather coming our way!


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