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As we begin to entertain thoughts of spring, the slow-but-sure downward trend in positive COVID-19 cases continues across King County and Washington state. With it, thanks to your diligence, employee infection rates are also trending down. That said, hospitalizations remain higher than they were in early December, and our hospitals are at full capacity – a stark reminder that our community still has lots of patients with COVID-19.

In our continued effort to provide our patients with the best care in the safest environment possible, we have updated the visitor policy at UW Medical Center – Northwest and Montlake campuses. As of Wednesday, each patient is allowed one visitor, as long as that visitor follows the guidelines established here. We believe that the recent decline in community transmission rates (although still high), combined with expanded masking requirements, makes it safe to allow increased visitation at UWMC campuses.

At this time, we are not changing the visitor policy at Harborview Medical Center and the suspension of routine visitation remains in place. The reason we’re not able to change policy at HMC is simply because of space constraints in the buildings, and the increased risks that come with congregate spaces. This is a policy we will continue to revisit and will update when it is safe to do so. You can find out more about the Valley Medical Center visitor policy here.

We have also established a timeline for the final expansion of the requirement for visitors to be fully vaccinated or have a negative test within 3 days. Starting February 15, this requirement will expand to include all clinics for people over 18 accompanying an adult patient. It is currently in effect for inpatient, procedure areas and clinics on hospital campuses.

Today’s update also includes:

  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • Daily Attestation Requirement
  • Work-Related Travel
  • Vaccines for Children Ages 6 Months to 5 Years
  • Antigen Tests

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 349,212 total cases and 2,359 deaths as of Wednesday, Feb. 2. The number of new positive tests is currently at 763.1/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 1,355,428 cases and 10,845 deaths as of Feb. 1.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 287,114 new cases, 75,302,383 total COVID-19 cases and 888,784 deaths as of Feb. 2.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 380,321,615 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,680,741 deaths as of Feb. 2.

Daily Attestation Requirement

One change that we can all appreciate is the end of the daily attestation requirement. While it may take some time to remove all the signage, know that it is no longer required starting Friday, February 4. Please continue to monitor your symptoms as you have been doing throughout the pandemic. If you experience any new symptoms, stay home, notify your supervisor, and get tested. If you have a new exposure, contact your employee health office for further guidance.

Work-Related Travel

Another policy update is the lifting of work-related travel restrictions for all UW Medicine employees. Effective immediately until further notice, travel for conferences, meetings and clinical activities (with supervisor approval) is permitted. We still encourage the consideration of remote options as an alternative to travel or in-person activities.

Vaccines for Children Ages 6 Months to 5 Years

In vaccine news, we learned that Pfizer has asked the FDA to authorize extra-low doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years. The FDA is expected to review the application and its data in mid-February, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on that developing situation.

Antigen At-Home Tests

Quick reminder: you can order your free federal antigen COVID tests here:

You can also learn more about how to use the tests here: While these tests are convenient, they should be taken with caution. A negative antigen test does not rule out infection, so staff who have new symptoms of COVID-19 should not come to work, even if their at-home test is negative.

In closing, I want to let you know that we are continuing to monitor COVID-19 variants, including those most recently emerging in the Omicron family — the BA.1 and BA.2 subvariants. The Omicron BA.2 variant, according to the World Health Organization, does not seem to be any more severe than the original BA.1 variant, which is good news. Some early data indicates that it may be slightly more transmissible than BA.1, but fortunately remains similarly susceptible to vaccine-mediated immunity. Thanks to everything we’ve done across the community to slow the spread of this disease and knowing how effective the combination of vaccinations and a booster shot has been against BA.1, I urge you to continue to follow all safety protocols and get a booster shot if you haven’t yet.

As always, thank you for all you do.


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