We continue to make steady progress in our efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Washington took another step forward with the statewide opening of a new phase of vaccine eligibility. As of Wednesday, everyone in Phase 1B, tier 2 of the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) guidelines is eligible to receive the vaccine. This group includes:
- Workers in certain congregate settings such as agriculture, corrections (prisons, jails, detention centers), fishing vessel crews, food processing, grocery stores, public transit and remaining first responders.
- People 16 or older who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high risk.
UW Medicine employees who now qualify, as well as those who remain eligible under the previous phases (1A and 1B tier 1), can schedule or decline their COVID-19 vaccination here.
It’s a heartening development that we entered this new phase five days ahead of the original schedule, and a sign that our planning and execution of the vaccine rollout is working. Still, we cannot afford to lose our focus on masking and physical distancing, especially as the state enters a new third phase of Governor Inslee’s recovery plan next week.
Starting Monday, King County, along with the rest of the state, will move into Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery plan. This phase eases some restrictions on in-person gatherings and outdoor venues. Moving to Phase 3 is an important step for the businesses and industries hit hardest during the past year. I’m hopeful it helps many small businesses regain their footing, or at least puts them on the path.
To maintain Phase 3 status, larger counties will need to maintain a 14-day average of new COVID-19 cases below 200 per 100,000 residents. You can track this in the county epidemiology data featured in my message below. For up-to-date vaccine information, please remember to consult Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines for Employees on The Huddle.
Today’s update includes:
- Local/National/Global Epidemiology
- Vaccination Summary
- Change in N95 Policy
- Vaccine Standby List
- Seattle Mariners Partnership to Strike Out COVID-19
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 85,073 total cases and 1,450 deaths as of March 19. The number of new positive tests is currently at 91/14 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 1.2 (estimate range: 0.4 – 2.0).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 331,820 confirmed cases and 5,168 deaths as of March 17. Of the 5,630,802 people who have been tested, 5.9% have been positive. United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 56,900 new cases, 29,431,658 total COVID-19 cases and 535,217 deaths as of March 18.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 121,464,666 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,684,093 deaths as of March 19.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of March 18
*Total Doses Given: 144,801. Site numbers represent total doses administered to employees, patients and community members.
Change in N95 Policy
Thanks to the hard work of the UW Medicine Supply Chain, we are pleased to report our supply of N95 respirators has improved. We have sufficient inventory for continued single-use masking and can safely wind down our N95 reprocessing program. Over the last year, we have stored a large number of reprocessed N95s that can be used if needed. As a result, we are no longer sending N95s for reprocessing, and the program will officially conclude at the end of this month.
Vaccine Standby List
Following a successful pilot program with Phase 1A employees, our UW Medicine vaccine team has launched a standby list for anyone eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1A or Phase 1B (tiers 1-4). With a goal to ensure no doses go to waste, the standby list allows eligible participants the opportunity to receive an unused dose from no-show appointments at the end of each day. This is an important program for UW Medicine as we strive to use all our available doses and to administer them in a timely, efficient and equitable way. To join the list, simply text ENROLL to 844-520-8700.
Seattle Mariners Partnership to Strike Out COVID-19
UW Medicine and the Seattle Mariners are partnering to help COVID-19 vaccines reach underserved communities in our region. As part of this partnership, the Mariners will provide $2 million in funding to support UW Medicine’s community outreach strategies and mobile vaccination efforts. These programs aim to raise awareness for the safety and importance of the vaccine and make the vaccine easily accessible, particularly in those communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Read more about this important local partnership.
As we have experienced too many times, this week has again brought its share of terrible news. The tragic events in Atlanta are a reminder that we must be vocal and active in our support of friends, family, colleagues and community members of Asian descent alongside Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. I cannot imagine the loss being experienced by the families of the individuals who were murdered. The only way to respond to these actions is to continue to build up our efforts to fight against all acts of racism.
On the good news side, we are entering a new phase of recovery and are beginning to see hints of our old lives returning — and how fitting, with tomorrow being the first day of spring. While it’s tempting to skip ahead or forget that we’re still living amidst a pandemic, the truth is there will not be a quick escape, only steady progress, like the kind we’re seeing. We must stay focused and continue following the safety protocols that we all know work. Thank you for the difference you are making every day in our community. Stay safe and healthy.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine