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As the days get shorter and cooler weather sets in, we can anticipate the typical seasonal increase of patient activity in our clinics and hospitals. The good news is that we are not seeing a significant rise in positive COVID-19 tests or hospitalizations. While the numbers are holding steady and have been for several weeks, the hope is that we will begin to see a downward trend in cases and hospitalizations. That’s why we continue to emphasize the importance of vaccinations, masking and all of the other tools we have been using for the overall health of our families and community.

Right now, our primary focus is on those individuals who have yet to receive their first shot of the vaccine. The difference in infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not continues to widen. A resource to see this difference is the Public Health – Seattle & King County COVID-19 Outcomes by Vaccination Status dashboard. We hope that as we head into the holiday season and people begin gathering for celebrations, vaccinations will be more widespread, and far fewer people will get infected with COVID. The new King County requirement for vaccination or testing to enter specific indoor and outdoor areas is another step in the right direction to keep our community as safe as possible.

We heard exciting news this week from the FDA with their approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years of age. In addition to continuing to vaccinate adults and teens, we’re preparing for the final approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children by the CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practice, hopefully next week. If approved, the vaccines sites will be ready!

I’m also happy to report that the first phase of the updated visitor vaccination and testing policy at Harborview has been going well. Likewise, the new masking requirement for all visitors, patients and staff across all UW Medicine clinical sites has been equally successful. We’ll continue to learn from these pilot programs, as we look to increase the safety of our facilities for everyone.

I have been receiving some questions regarding COVID-19 booster vaccines and want to provide some clarity on this topic. UW Medicine employees who are potentially exposed to COVID-19 in a clinical setting are eligible for, and encouraged to get, boosters. For those who do not work in a clinical setting, data show that those who are fully vaccinated continue to be highly protected against infection. We also expect eligibility to expand over time, so if you don’t qualify now, you will likely qualify soon. Above all, our focus must continue to be on vaccinating as many people in our community as possible. We’re making progress — especially as we anticipate authorization of vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds — and this collective action is our strongest tool.

Today’s update also includes:

  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • Vaccination Summary
  • Employee and Family COVID-19 Testing
  • UW Medicine Facilities and Engineering Teams
  • Halloween Gatherings

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 163,795 total confirmed cases and 2,002 deaths as of Thursday, October 28. The number of new positive tests is currently at 123.5/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).

Washington: The Department of Health reports 635,328 confirmed cases and 8,554 deaths as of Oct. 26. Of the 9,842,443 people who have been tested, 6% have been positive.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 76,944 new cases, 45,571,532 total COVID-19 cases and 737,990 deaths as of Oct. 27.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 244,897,472 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,970,435 deaths as of Oct. 28.

UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Oct. 27

*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.


With this week’s message I want to thank all of the amazing UW Medicine Facilities and Engineering teams. Not only do they build and maintain the environments that we work in, their hard work in improving air handling (ventilation and filtration) over the years has been critical in keeping us safe during the pandemic. For those of us who aren’t directly involved in this work, how air moves through our workspaces is easy not to think about. However “invisible” this may seem, ventilation/filtration is one of the most important layers of protection from COVID (and other respiratory pathogens) that we have. A huge thank you to all our colleagues working in Facilities and Engineering — your work has saved lives.

With Halloween this weekend and good weather expected (sunny on Saturday and Sunday!), I hope you’ll take the opportunity to spend time with friends and family outdoors. As always, it’s best to keep your group small, to mask whenever indoors with people outside of your household, and physically distance when possible. And, of course, have a spooky and fun holiday!

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