Skip to main content

Today is the second anniversary of the first diagnosis of COVID-19 in North America, made right here in Western Washington by our colleagues at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. When that diagnosis was made, there were just over 550 people in the world known to be infected with what we now call SARS-CoV-2. The UW Medicine response was immediate, starting with the activation of the Harborview Home Assessment Team, led by Vanessa Makarewicz, RN, to do home evaluations and testing. It seems unbelievable to think about everything we have done in the two years since then to respond to and live with this pandemic.

This past week gives us reason to be cautiously optimistic. Overall, in King County we’ve seen a 20% decrease in positive COVID-19 cases and stabilization of the number of people with COVID-19 in our hospitals. Employee case numbers have also thankfully come down some and stabilized. And we’re seeing a drop in COVID-like illness at our emergency departments across the county. While all of this is reason to allow ourselves a sigh of relief, I truly believe our vigilance and commitment to the safety protocols we have observed, particularly over the past few weeks, have directly contributed to this positive turn. We should feel good about these latest numbers, without letting our guard down.

Today’s update also includes:

  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • National Guard at Harborview
  • Operational Changes to Manage the Surge
  • New Process for Employee COVID-19 Testing

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 298,788 total confirmed cases and 2,273 deaths as of Thursday, Jan. 20. The number of new positive tests is currently at 1,547.9/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 1,119,228 total cases and 10,230 deaths as of Jan. 18.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 768,190 new cases, 68,671,563 total cases and 856,288 deaths as of Jan. 20.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 336,790,193 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,560,718 deaths as of Jan. 20.

National Guard at Harborview

In our effort to manage the surge, the National Guard, working with the Governor’s office, deployed 100 non-clinical personnel across the state to assist emergency departments and bolster COVID-19 testing teams. Harborview Medical Center is one of the designated testing sites, reducing the strain on emergency departments in our region. Along with the National Guard resources, Harborview is bringing in an additional 45 nurses to help with urgent staffing needs.

Operational Changes to Manage the Surge

As we continue to address resource shortages, we’ve implemented several operational changes, including moving to temporary staffing contingency status, universal respirator requirements for all staff in clinical environments, and additional visitor restrictions. These changes are in place to help improve our current situation while continuing to provide much-needed services, and we anticipate eventually rolling back to conventional operations. If you have questions about returning to work after a diagnosis of COVID-19 (remember – there’s no shame) or after being exposed, please contact your Employee Health team. They will get back to you as soon as possible.

In truth, managing the surge may take some time. South Africa, which is the first region to experience the Omicron variant and surge, is still not back to its pre-Omicron infection rates, and we anticipate a similar curve here. Particularly in healthcare, we are going to be working though the impact of this surge for weeks to come. That said, we are hopeful that even with another wave of cases, we are well-prepared to manage the situation and continue to care for our community.

On the national front, the CDC recommends a booster dose for some moderately or severely immunocompromised people. Our vaccine clinics are providing this fourth dose for eligible patients who have completed their three-dose primary series at least five months previously.

New Process for Employee COVID-19 Testing

In order to better serve our internal teams, we are streamlining the employee testing process and introducing new tools next week to help you schedule testing. Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have been directed by Employee Health to get tested can schedule using the same link they use today:

You’ll be directed to the SOLV scheduling application. (We will no longer be using RedCap and Calendly to schedule testing.) Once you’re scheduled, you must complete the online paperwork prior to your appointment. This new scheduling system will be available for the UWMC – Northwest test site starting mid-week. We’re targeting late next week for the Harborview test site to switch to this scheduling tool.

In closing, I want to thank you again for all you do, every day, to serve our community and to keep us safe and healthy. It’s been a long, long two years for all of us, and I recognize how tired everyone feels and how much we all want to get back to “normal” or even some semblance of normal. While we have reason to be optimistic, it’s our commitment to beating COVID-19 and its variants that got us here. Please keep up the great work.


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