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For weeks, we’ve noted the downward trend in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. While these key metrics continue to decline at the county, state and national levels, when compared to other points in the pandemic, they remain high. Statewide cases, for example, are at comparable levels to last year’s holiday surge; hospitalizations are higher — and only a few weeks removed from their all-time, pandemic peak.

This sustained, high-volume census, taken with the shortage of healthcare workers across disciplines (also a national concern), continues to strain our state and regional hospitals. At UW Medicine, we are fortunate to have the resources to manage these surges better than most of our regional counterparts. This is our privilege as leaders, and we should expect continued calls for support for patient care if census remains high statewide.

That’s not to say we are immune from struggle. But by supporting each other and putting our patients’ needs first, we are making progress. In the second half of this month, we have more opportunities to show our community leadership in health and safety as several big changes come to UW Medicine and our communities.

Oct. 18: Washington State Vaccination Mandate

The deadline to be fully compliant with Governor Inslee’s vaccination proclamation is next week. After Monday, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or possess an approved exemption to be employed at UW Medicine. I’m proud that our community has taken the mandate seriously with more than 99% of employees already compliant. Well done!

Oct. 19: Visitor Vaccination Protocol and Updated Visitor/Staff Masking Policy

One day later, we’re implementing two new safety measures:

  • Starting with Phase 1 at Harborview, our new visitor vaccination protocol will require that all visitors show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than three days prior to the visit. After we learn from Harborview’s experience for a few weeks, we plan to implement this requirement at all UW Medicine hospitals and clinics.
  • We will begin providing procedure masks to all patients and visitors at all sites. A huge thank you to the hard-working members of the UW Medicine Supply Chain Team who made this happen. Did you know they have received and distributed more than 84 million pieces of PPE since the start of the pandemic? Incredible. In alignment with this requirement for visitors, we are also requiring procedure masks or better for all UW Medicine personnel. Please review the UW Medicine Required and Extended-Use Masking Policy for these updates and FAQs.

Oct. 25: King County Vaccination/Testing Requirement for Events

In 10 days, King County will require people 12 and older to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result to enter certain indoor and outdoor events and establishments. This includes restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, live music venues and outdoor events with 500 people or more, among other places.

Healthcare executives from the county’s largest hospitals, including UW Medicine, offered a shared statement of support for the verification program, calling it “part of a multi-layered approach to preventing COVID-19” and “vitally important to protecting health care capacity.” I agree.

Collectively, these requirements are intended to create a safer environment for everyone and to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. You can help by supporting these measures, and others like them, and by encouraging your colleagues, friends and family to do the same. We are all in this together and the more we acknowledge that fact — and act on it — the faster we can bring an end to this pandemic.

Today’s update also includes:

  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • Vaccination Summary
  • Employee and Family COVID-19 Testing

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 158,593 total confirmed cases and 1,942 deaths as of Friday, Oct. 15. The number of new positive tests is currently at 138.7/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 612,757 confirmed cases and 8,198 deaths as of Oct. 13. Of the 9,842,443 people who have been tested, 6.2% have been positive.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 92,217 new cases, 44,615,528 total COVID-19 cases and 718,681 deaths as of Oct. 14

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 239,437,517 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,879,235 deaths as of Oct. 15.

UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Oct. 14

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

Employee and Family COVID-19 Testing

We encourage all employees and families to be tested if you have symptoms or believe you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. You and your family can easily access information about how to schedule a COVID-19 test by visiting Employee Resources on the website and clicking on the COVID-19 Testing Access quick link. Testing is easy and helps slow transmission of the virus.

The weather turned this week and, suddenly, it feels like autumn — or even winter! Although I look forward to getting outdoors for winter activities, the colder temps mean many of us will soon be spending more time inside. We know the virus spreads more easily indoors, especially among the unmasked and unvaccinated. Please continue to use your best judgment, follow basic safety protocols and wear your mask indoors, even if fully vaccinated. These are little things that can make a big difference through the holidays.

Stay safe and be well.


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