This first week of the new year marks important milestones in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines and in our efforts to end this year-long pandemic. Thanks to the efforts of the UW Medicine COVID-19 vaccine task force, we have now vaccinated more than 16,000 employees and community clinical partners. Many of our high-risk colleagues and partners even began receiving their second dose of the vaccine this week. With Gov. Inslee’s announcement Wednesday of a timeline of vaccination tiers through April, we have a little more clarity around how and when everyone, including our friends and families, will be prioritized to receive the vaccine in the coming months.
The start of 2021 has also been marked, tragically, by Wednesday’s unthinkable events at our nation’s Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. As we process what happened, I recommend reading UW President Ana Mari Cauce’s blog on the insurrection. I imagine many of us are feeling upset and disturbed by what we have witnessed. I certainly feel this way. Amidst these violent acts and the ongoing fatigue and stress of the pandemic, it is especially essential to continue supporting each other, our patients and community. We are dealing with a lot, and we still have work to do ahead, but we are not alone.
With Washington State Department of Health’s new direction on COVID-19 vaccine phases, UW Medicine employees and community healthcare partners outside of at-risk healthcare settings will receive the vaccine within the Phase 1B timeline or future phases 2, 3 and 4. These phases, including Phase 1B, include many people in the UW Medicine patient population, and we are providing regular updates to them, including on UW Medicine’s website. If you qualify for the upcoming Phase 1B, we will inform you when scheduling opens. Timing is dependent upon the supply of vaccine and ongoing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health. For more information on the phases, see the COVID-19 vaccine timeline.
Today’s update includes:
• Local/National/Global Epidemiology and Vaccination Summary
• COVID-19 Policy Updates
• Vaccine Research Projects
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 66,486 total cases and 1,132 deaths as of Thursday, Jan. 7. The number of new positive tests is currently at 279/14 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 1.0 (estimate range: 0.8 – 1.2).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 253,401 cases and 3,634 deaths as of Wednesday, Jan. 6. Of the 3,987,138 people who have been tested, 6.6% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 299,904 new cases on Thursday, Jan. 7, 21,259,997 total COVID-19 cases and 359,849 deaths.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard as of Friday, Jan. 8 reports 86,749,940 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,890,342 deaths.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary
COVID-19 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, the following policies have been updated.
Visitor Restriction Policy Inpatient Setting — Key Updates Include:
• Obstetric patients may now have two asymptomatic support visitors during labor and delivery. These visitors can be a family member, doula or delivery coach.
• Extended duration visitors may eat in a patient’s room, but must maintain a distance of six feet or greater from patients when eating or drinking. Food and beverages should not be consumed in lobbies or waiting areas.
Required and Extended-Use Masking Policy: New FAQs were added on procedure mask toleration and requirements for mask-wearing under PAPR hoods. Please remember that you should use a new procedure mask every time you remove the one you are wearing.
Please consult your supervisor or manager for any questions or clarifications on policy changes.
Vaccine Research Projects
At UW Medicine, we are participating in ongoing research to continue contributions to COVID-19 vaccine development and to learn more about the effectiveness of vaccination in various populations.
Novavax Vaccine Trial: The UW Virology Research Clinic is conducting a Novavax COVD-19 vaccine research study for people who are not healthcare workers but have one of the following qualifications: 65 years of age and older; Latinx, Black or other minority; age 18 and older with other medical problems and/or work in settings where they are likely to be exposed to COVID-19 (such as bus drivers, grocery stores or other retail). Study participants will be compensated for their time over a two-year period. If you or a family member is interested in participating, contact email@example.com or 206.520.4212.
Project PREVENT: This CDC-funded, multicenter study is evaluating COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness among frontline healthcare workers. Any healthcare worker tested for COVID-19 in the last two weeks may be eligible, and participation is voluntary. If selected, participants complete two surveys, one month apart, that report work environment, symptoms, comorbidities and outcomes. The local research team will obtain vaccination records and may request medical records if participants require COVID-19 related medical care. If your COVID-19 test occurred outside of UW Employee Health, visit Project PREVENT to report your test for study consideration. If you opted in for research through the Employee Health testing survey, your test is already reported. If selected for the study, participants will receive a $25 gift card for each survey completed. For more study details or questions, please contact our study team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kicking off a new year always provides hope for change and progress. The events of this week in D.C. set a challenging tone for the beginning of 2021, but we can look beyond that day. I remain optimistic that the challenges we are facing through this continued pandemic, and in our country, provide greater opportunity for unity and a better “new normal.” We have already proven the strength of our collaboration in protecting the health of our patients and community in 2020. The momentum of the past several months — and the promise of expanded vaccination — will provide the support and learnings we need to carry us forward.
Take care of yourself and your family, check in with each other and remember we are in this together. Thank you for all that 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