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As our thoughts turn to spring and warmer days ahead, we’re seeing a number of cities and states across the U.S. relaxing mask mandates and COVID protocols. Too soon? Possibly, as we don’t yet have a clear understanding of when it will be best to make these changes: When hospital cases are below a certain number? When children under 5 have access to vaccination? There are many things to consider as part of this decision making. Locally we are seeing a downward trend in the number of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19. The number of COVID patients in the UW Medicine system is about half what it was just a month ago. Statewide, the numbers are also headed in the right direction, but Washington Department of Health (DOH) data is only current through the end of January, and we’ve seen signs of improvement since then. Within the UW Medicine community, the number of employees in isolation or quarantine has also significantly decreased.

With all this good news, it makes sense that you’d still have lots of questions — and you’re not alone. As the outside world begins to find its balance, we’re all wondering what the future holds for those of us in the healthcare community. Will we have to wear masks all the time? Will we require respirators in clinical settings forever? What will spring and summer look like this year?

The short answer is, we don’t have all of the answers right now. What we do know is that we’ll be ready for whatever comes our way. I can confirm that we will continue to wear masks and/or respirators in clinical areas for the foreseeable future. We will continue to monitor activity in our broader community. We’ll maintain equitable access to vaccines and testing. And we will be prepared to manage surges if and when they occur. While I’m hopeful that the progress we’ve made against this devastating disease will allow us to move toward a new normal, I’m confident that we will be ready for whatever comes next.

Today’s update also includes:

  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • Increased Availability of Oral Antivirals
  • UW Medicine COVID-19 Test Sites Broadening Testing
  • Vaccine Booster Requirement for UW Medicine Employees

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 360,423 total cases and 2,451 deaths as of Thursday, Feb. 10. The number of new positive tests is currently at 434.1/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 1,391,026 cases and 11,194 deaths as of Feb. 8.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 191,920 new cases, 76,976,575 total COVID-19 cases and 906,603 deaths as of Feb. 9.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 402,044,502 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,770,023 deaths as of Feb. 10.

Increased Availability of Oral Antivirals

Starting today, UW Medicine providers may prescribe Molnupiravir directly for their patients meeting NIH tier 3 and 4 eligibility criteria without going through the COVID-19 Therapeutics Team. Providers should continue to refer tier 1 and 2 patients (i.e. transplant patients or other immunosuppressed patients) for Paxlovid or Sotrovimab using the REDCap referral request. You can learn more about important eligibility criteria considerations as well as how to order at select UW Medicine pharmacies and retail pharmacies state-wide here. The COVID-19 Therapeutics Team continues to manage requests for Paxlovid and Sotrovimab within our system, however UW Medicine providers now can also send prescriptions for Paxlovid to select retail pharmacies throughout the state.

UW Medicine COVID-19 Test Sites Broadening Testing

Keeping the good news coming, I’m pleased to report that UW Medicine COVID-19 testing sites have enough capacity to restart offering testing for those looking to travel or attend events and social gatherings. These slots will be limited to ensure we maintain enough capacity for people with symptoms and known exposures. The Harborview and UWMC-Northwest test sites opened testing for these lower priority groups on Wednesday and the Lab Medicine community sites are planning to open appointments for this type of testing soon. It’s a big step forward but also a reminder that we must remain vigilant even as we venture out.

Vaccine Booster Requirement for UW Medicine Employees

As a reminder, all UW Medicine employees (except for those in non-clinical roles in the School of Medicine) are required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot or complete a declination process by Friday, March 4, 2022. If you haven’t received your booster, please go to and get your shot scheduled. As I say every week, vaccines and boosters are our strongest weapon against COVID-19 and the best way you can help make UW Medicine a safer place for all patients, visitors and staff.

Finally, I will be away for the next two weeks, so these weekly messages will come from my Med Tech colleagues Drs. Nandita Mani and Abby Hussein, who’ve graciously agreed to cover for me while I’m gone.

I look forward to catching up in a few weeks. Until then, thank you for everything you do every day and be safe.


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