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One year ago, on Jan. 21, 2020, the United States announced its first confirmed case of coronavirus, right here in Western Washington. It’s hard to believe we’ve been in this pandemic for a year. Although COVID-19 in the U.S. first showed up in our backyard, we have come a long way as a region since then. How we work in healthcare has changed at every level and for every job. The precautions we have taken at UW Medicine and in the community to prevent further spread of the virus have proven to be effective. Thankfully, we are seeing case numbers and hospitalizations steadily dropping in King County after the increase over the fall and winter holidays. This is great progress that proves, again, that we know what works to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Today’s update includes:

• Local/National/Global Epidemiology and Vaccination Summary
• Surveillance Policy Update
• UW Medicine Gratitude Campaign

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 73,445 total cases and 1,206 deaths as of Thursday, Jan. 21. The number of new positive tests is currently at 316/14 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 1.0 (estimate range: 0.7 – 1.3).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 296,087 cases and 4,065 deaths as of Wednesday, Jan. 20. Of the 4,325,798 who have been tested, 6.8% have been positive.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 188,772 new COVID-19 cases, 24,512,618 total cases and 408,697 deaths as of Friday, Jan. 22.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 96,267,473 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,082,745 deaths as of Friday, Jan. 22.

UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Jan. 21

COVID-19 Vaccine Numbers
*Site numbers represent doses administered, not the number of people who have been vaccinated and work at each site.

Surveillance Policy Update

The new inpatient surveillance policy and protocol rolled out this week at UWMC-Montlake and Harborview, last week at UWMC-NW and at Valley Medical Center several weeks ago. Feedback has been good and hopefully will continue to increase the safety of the environment for patients and healthcare workers. We have updated the policy this week to expand the timing and the types of tests that are acceptable for screening before an aerosol-generating procedure.

If you work in a procedural area that sees patients who require testing, it is important to review these changes. Please see the policy and FAQ for details.

UW Medicine Gratitude Campaign

The UW Medicine staff well-being team has launched an internal Gratitude Campaign to donate food and nonperishable items in recognition of the tireless work and dedication of employees across our hospitals and clinics. In partnership with our Infection Prevention team, the campaign ensures safe distribution and handling of donations. Goodie bags will be distributed to break rooms and grab-and-go meals will be available at exit points for carry-out. For more information on how to contribute to the campaign, read the guidelines for in-kind donations and food distribution.

Amidst these challenging times, this effort is a simple way to say “thanks” to our colleagues and spread some smiles underneath all those masks. We appreciate all that you do!

Speaking of gratitude, I would like to take a moment to thank the UW Medicine Vaccine Team. They have done a tremendous job launching the vaccination program and now expanding it. As you can see above, UW Medicine has vaccinated tens of thousands of people since the launch, and the plan is to continue to expand access as possible. I can’t name all of the involved people here, but please know that we appreciate all of your work!

At Wednesday’s presidential inauguration event in Washington, D.C., unity was a key theme throughout the day. As President Biden noted, “with unity, we can do great things, important things.” Among these great and important things is overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic together. Through a unified front to slow the spread of the coronavirus, to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, to protect the health and safety of our UW Medicine patients and community, and to support each other in the process, we can and will continue to see progress and change.

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