For more than a year, the pandemic has dominated many aspects of our daily lives. Thankfully, that is beginning to change. The Washington State Department of Health announced yesterday that 70% of those age 16 and up have received at least one shot. Even as hospitalizations across the country are rising, higher vaccination rates in our Western Washington region have allowed many people to reclaim old routines and behaviors — including allowing our clinical staff to focus on patient care beyond COVID-19.
At the same time, our COVID-19 response continues to be in the news. On Tuesday, UW Medicine patient Jenny Aguilar walked out of UW Medical Center after being on an ECMO machine for four months. Thanks to the remarkable efforts of the UW Medicine ECMO team and all of the healthcare providers who helped save Jenny’s life, she was able to finally return home to her five children in Reno, Nevada.
As UW Medicine’s broader COVID-19 response demands a more stable level of our time and attention, it also requires less of me in your inbox. Starting this week, I will be moving these updates to a bi-weekly cadence. While we will continue to see bursts of activity and change, they will likely be less frequent and slower to happen moving forward. That’s the hope, at least. And when major changes related to COVID-19 do occur, whether it’s a new policy or an adjustment to a system-wide process, we will share updates at that time.
Looking ahead in other areas, next week brings further changes to our COVID-19 response. Starting Monday, the UW Medicine Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will enter a monitoring phase that relies more on measurement and reporting. Many of our weekly calls (such as EOC and Command & General meetings) will begin phasing out at the same time. Next week, we will also finalize updated attestation and healthcare worker vaccination requirements. And by Wednesday, the last of our high-volume vaccination sites will close as the vaccination effort fully transitions to our hospitals, emergency departments and primary care clinics. All of this means that we are, cautiously, moving in the right direction.
Still farther out, autumn quarter is fast approaching and with it the requirement that all UW Medicine employees are vaccinated against COVID-19. Most of you already have been vaccinated and some have asked about booster shots. The need for and timing of these have not been established and, in accordance with CDC guidelines, UW Medicine does not recommend boosters until further research indicates such a need. Thank you for taking the crucial step of vaccination, as it remains the best option we have for ending the pandemic and ensuring the safety of our patients, visitors and co-workers.
Today’s update includes:
- Local/National/Global Epidemiology
- Vaccination Summary
- Reminder: Town Hall Friday
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 109,140 total confirmed cases and 1,681 deaths as of Thursday, July 15. The number of new positive tests is currently at 25/7 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 0.8 (estimate range: 0.1-1.5).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 420,214 confirmed cases and 6,027 deaths as of July 13. Of the 7,843,876 people who have been tested, 5.4% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 31,815 new cases, 33,758,532 total COVID-19 cases and 605,551 deaths as of July 14.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 188,128,952 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,059,339 deaths as of July 15.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of July 14
Reminder: Town Hall Friday, July 16
Friendly reminder that tomorrow, Friday, July 16, we will gather remotely for another UW Medicine Town Hall at 3 p.m. It is impressive that we have been able to host 40 virtual Town Halls since the start of the pandemic! Thank you to everyone who has attended and helped make these important forums happen. There is still time to send in your questions for Friday. As always, we will record the discussion and post it on The Huddle for those who cannot attend. See you there!
Delivering these updates during the most serious public health crisis of our generation has been a real honor. It has allowed me to meet so many of you, to share in your stories and experiences, and to gain a deeper appreciation for the people who make up UW Medicine. As this space evolves, I hope you’ll help me shape it. What do you want to hear more about in the future? What topics should leadership be addressing? Should we even continue these updates after COVID-19? Send me your feedback and let me know what you’re thinking.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine