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After two years, it’s hard to believe we can finally say for most, though not all of us, that the pandemic is no longer dominating every aspect of our daily lives. High vaccination rates and the effectiveness of the booster shots are driving down the number of new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Mask mandates are being lifted, and we’re cautiously optimistic that we are, at long last, on the other side of the pandemic’s peak, at least for the near future. With that, UW Medicine’s COVID-19 response requires a little less of our time and attention — and less news to share on a weekly basis.

My message this week marks a move to a two-week cadence for updates, opposite the timing of our Town Hall meetings. As I’ve noted before, sharing these messages during the most serious public health crisis of our generation truly has been an honor. Having the opportunity to connect with so many of you has given me an even greater appreciation for the many people and actions that allow UW Medicine to provide such a meaningful impact. Again, I thank you for all that you’ve done — and all that you continue to do — for the health and safety of our community.

As state and local mask mandates lift and we enter the next phase of living with COVID-19, I’ve received numerous questions regarding our own mask mandates. While community risk rates have decreased, community transmission rates remain high. To continue to protect everyone — and slow the spread of the virus — masks are still required in our hospitals and clinics. This is also a good reminder that other policies around masking, distancing, and events like potlucks have not changed.

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 368,389 total cases and 2,618 deaths as of Wednesday, March 9 The number of new positive tests over the past seven days is currently at 75.7 per 100,000 people.

Washington: The Department of Health reports 1,434,783 cases and 12,133 deaths as of March 8.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 31,692 new cases, 79,198,539 total cases and 959,533 deaths as of March 9.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 450,229,635 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,019,085 deaths as of March 10.

My next message is planned to be in your inbox on March 24. By then, it’s likely that we will have an updated visitation and visitor mask policy as well as continued updates to other policies and procedures.

With the start of daylight savings time this weekend, I hope we will also soon be enjoying warmer days and more spring sunshine!

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