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Things can change fast during a pandemic. We’re seeing that again this week, as locally and nationally we grapple, yet again, with responding to rising COVID-19 case counts driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

In the past few days, health officials at all levels have recommended a return to universal indoor masking, regardless of vaccination status. Given increasing case counts and data shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, effective immediately, UW Medicine is re-escalating our masking policy. This means that we are returning to the prior requirement for universal masking regardless of vaccination status. This re-escalation applies to those UW Medicine employees who work within our hospitals and clinics (including when in non-clinical spaces) as well as individuals who use our hospital-based employee health services. For non-clinical School of Medicine personnel who use EH&S for employee health services and do not work in a hospital or clinic, you may continue to follow UW policies. Prior guidance on eating, drinking, physical distancing and spaces like private offices are in effect.

The most important single tool we have to decrease COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations remains vaccination. As a reminder, UW Medicine is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or claim an exemption no later than Friday, Sept. 10. Most of you already have taken the important and potentially life-saving step of getting vaccinated and for that I am extremely grateful. To those who haven’t, I’d again encourage you to make that first-dose appointment. All three vaccines are readily available, safe and effective in preventing hospitalizations and death. Now is the time to do it.

Thank you for your cooperation in our policy implementations and please bear with us as we navigate the next several months. There are sure to be more changes ahead as case counts change, new information is available, autumn classes resume on campus and more employees return to on-site work.

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 111,556 total confirmed cases and 1,682 deaths as of Friday, July 30. The number of new positive tests is currently at 61.2/7 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 2.0 (estimate range: 1.0-3.1).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 431,743 confirmed cases and 6,119 deaths as of July 28. Of the 8,338,293 people who have been tested, 5.2% have been positive.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 86,058 new cases, 34,722,631 total COVID-19 cases and 609,853 deaths as of July 29.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 196,553,009 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,200,412 deaths as of July 30.

UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of July 29

*Site numbers show the number of employees, patients and community members who received vaccines at each site and the total number of first and second doses administered.

In closing, I wanted to revisit something I mentioned two weeks ago, as we continue to get questions about booster doses. UW Medicine continues to follow CDC and Washington State Department of Health guidance in not recommending giving more than two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or more than one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Per that same guidance, we are not recommending that Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients be given a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. If or when these recommendations change, we will let you know.

As we move into what looks like another COVID-19 surge, we should remind ourselves and each other that we have the tools to slow this down and to reverse course. A combination of vaccination, masking, physical distancing, staying home when ill and getting tested are all individual actions that, when combined, are a powerful package of interventions. While at work, we add appropriate PPE, ventilation/filtration, health screening and testing to further increase the level of safety for all. We have proven time and time again that these layers of protection work together to prevent COVID-19 transmission while also allowing us to engage in our lives and our work.

My ask of you this week is to lean in and to support each other as we work through this surge. I know that I count on those around me for support, and in return, I can support them when needed. The support of my UW Medicine colleagues over the last 18 months continues to sustain me, and for that I am grateful every single day.


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