The reopening effort is set to take two major steps forward next week, as public health and government policies designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 continue to loosen at both the county and state levels.
Next Tuesday, King County will lift its mask directive that urged all residents to wear a face mask in indoor public settings regardless of their vaccination status. The following day, Wednesday, the state will fully reopen, giving retail stores, places of worship, bars, restaurants and gyms permission to operate at normal capacity.
These changes do not mean, however, that everything returns to the way it was before the pandemic.
State officials will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that recommend people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in indoor public settings, and outdoors when unable to keep 6 feet of distance between themselves and others. Masks also will continue to be required when traveling on public transportation or inside transportation hubs such as airports. (And as I’ve mentioned in earlier updates, healthcare settings also remain exceptions to the CDC guidelines, so we will continue to follow masking and physical distancing protocols at UW Medicine facilities.)
These milestones serve as good reminders of how vaccinations got us to this point. Nearly 80% of King County residents 16 and older have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s incredible and I’m grateful to everyone who played a role in that effort. These vaccines are preventing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19. What this also means is that the overwhelming majority of people getting infected, hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Keep encouraging others to get vaccinated. Truly, it is making a difference.
Today’s update includes:
- Local/National/Global Epidemiology
- Vaccination Summary
- OSHA’s New Emergency Temporary Standard
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 107,467 total confirmed cases and 1,648 deaths as of Thursday, June 24. The number of new positive tests is currently at 50/14 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 0.9 (estimate range: 0.2-1.7).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 413,046 confirmed cases and 5,898 deaths as of Wednesday, June 23. Of the 7,480,681 people who have been tested, 5.5% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 13,376 new cases on Wednesday, June 23, 33,409,895 total COVID-19 cases and 600,442 deaths.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard as of Friday, June 25 reports 179,513,309 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,895,661 deaths.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of June 24
OSHA’s New Emergency Temporary Standard
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for protecting healthcare workers against COVID-19. It focuses on those workers most likely to have contact with COVID-19 patients and requires employers to implement many of the practices we already are following at UW Medicine, from the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) to physical distancing to patient and visitor screening. Before we implement any additional changes at UW Medicine based on this new standard, we are figuring out the best way to integrate the framework into our existing systems. We will continue to keep everyone informed of any upcoming policy or protocol updates resulting from OSHA regulations.
Following up on my message from last week, the questions about returning to “normal” activities keep coming and I certainly understand. We are working diligently to determine the safest path forward, but there remain many operational details to be worked out around vaccination status — for example, how to identify employees who have been vaccinated and those who have not. Once some of these concerns are decided, we will have a much better idea of what we need to do to keep our facilities safe for staff, visitors and patients in the coming months. Until then, we’ll continue to follow the health and safety measures that have worked so far. Thanks, as always, for your continuous cooperation and understanding.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine