It’s with gratitude and grief that I find myself reflecting this week, both as we celebrate major milestones in our vaccination and testing efforts here at UW Medicine and as we’re again reminded of the grim toll COVID-19 has taken on our country.
On Monday, we surpassed a half million American lives lost due to COVID-19. That sobering total was almost unimaginable a year ago and serves as yet another reminder of the staggering human cost of this pandemic. In noting the milestone, Governor Inslee said of the thousands of Washingtonians who have died: “While we can’t bring them back, we can honor their memory by doing all we can to make sure that fewer people get sick.”
This is the commitment that propels our work with patients and the community during the ongoing pandemic. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, we are making progress. Our vaccination efforts are working. Case numbers and hospitalizations are down. Masking and physical distancing continue to be effective in reducing transmission.
While last week’s winter weather across the U.S. delayed Moderna vaccine shipments to many healthcare organizations nationwide, including ours, we successfully rescheduled appointments and are back to operating on a regular schedule. Our pause on scheduling new first-dose appointments, however, is still in effect due to limited supply.
Despite some setbacks, we are administering our 100,000th vaccine dose at UW Medicine today! That’s an achievement worth celebrating and a real tribute to our vaccine teams who have worked so hard to distribute our available doses equitably and safely to the community. I am grateful for your commitment to our patients and inspired by your dedication, professionalism and care.
For up-to-date vaccine information, please remember to consult Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines for Employees on The Huddle.
Today’s update includes:
• Local/National/Global Epidemiology
• Vaccination Summary
• Reminder: No-Waste List Pilot Program for 1A Employees
• COVID-19 Employee Policy Updates
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 81,918 total cases and 1,380 deaths as of Feb. 25. The number of new positive tests is currently at 99/14 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 0.9 (estimate range: 0.4 – 1.3).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 319,498 cases and 4,942 deaths as of Feb. 24. Of the 5,193,250 people who have been tested, 6.2% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 73,610 new cases, 28,212,548 total COVID-19 cases and 506,834 deaths as of Feb. 26.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 112,649,371 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,501,229 deaths as of Feb. 26.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Feb. 25
*Total Doses Given: 98,761. Site numbers represent total doses administered to employees, patients and community members.
Reminder: No-Waste List Pilot Program for 1A Employees
UW Medicine continues to focus on using all available vaccine doses. To further streamline our waste management process, we have been piloting a “No-Waste List” tool for UW Medicine employees who fall under Phase 1A of the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) vaccination plan and are still awaiting a vaccine. This text message tool offers employees a chance to receive doses left over from appointment no-shows at our vaccination clinics at the end of daily business.
If you are an unvaccinated Phase 1A employee and haven’t signed up for the No-Waste List, you can do so using this form. Once on the list, you may receive daily text messages asking about your availability to receive a dose. Should you be available, you may be invited to an assigned clinic 30 minutes before closing for the opportunity to receive an end-of-day vaccine. Reminder, there is no guarantee you will receive a dose even if invited to stand by at the clinic.
COVID-19 Employee Policy Updates
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and we learn more, UW Medicine continues to review our protocols and procedures to ensure they reflect the most up-to-date safety measures. For this week, a few notes on the following policies:
- Travel restrictions for UW Medicine employees remain in place, even for those who have already received the vaccine. This includes work-related travel for conferences and meetings. Non-essential personal travel also is strongly discouraged until further notice.
- The PPE Conservation and Mitigation Policy has been updated to highlight specific instances when using a respirator is required for entering rooms or caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19. As always, changes in PPE status will be broadly communicated to all staff when they occur.
Please consult your supervisor or manager for any questions or clarifications on policy changes.
The milestones we’ve marked this week tell the story of the pandemic. On one hand, devastating loss. On the other, progress and hope. Your efforts every day are contributing significantly to the latter, ensuring brighter days ahead. Thank you for all you continue to do for our patients, our communities and for each other.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine