It’s a relief to see COVID-19 infections declining in the U.S. Although still too many are getting infected, we are averaging about 107,000 new cases per day this week, down from more than 150,000 per day in September. We’re seeing the same trend in King County and in our UW Medicine hospitals. As case rates and hospitalizations head in the right direction, it’s natural to wonder what comes next?
It is hard to know what the winter will bring, but if we’ve learned anything over the past 18 months, it’s that there’s not just one solution to slowing the transmission of COVID-19. Safe and effective vaccines are our most effective tool, but alone cannot solve the pandemic. We also need dynamic diagnostic testing, access and capacity for clinical care, safe and healthy working conditions for healthcare workers and development of life-saving treatments for COVID-19. Public health and social measures like masking, social distancing and handwashing have become routine, but essential to slowing the pandemic. While vaccination rates are still rising, case counts remain high, and we must continue to follow these measures to maintain hard-fought gain.
Speaking of progress, new developments of note include:
- On Monday, Oct. 18, vaccination becomes a condition of employment at UW Medicine and for other Washington state employees. Vaccines are our number-one tool for ending the pandemic. As we approach this deadline, we will inevitably face some challenges and differences. Above all, our priority remains the support and safety of our healthcare workers, staff, patients, visitors and community. To that end, we are phasing in a requirement that all visitors over the age of 12, and adults over 18 accompanying an adult patient to a clinic, show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test collected within three days before the visit. This policy will go into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Harborview Medical Center and its hospital-based clinics. As we learn from the Harborview experience, we will implement this policy at other sites throughout UW Medicine. More information, including signage, will be distributed next week.
- Last Friday, pharmaceutical company Merck announced a new anti-viral pill, Molnupiravir, for people who are sick with COVID-19, but not yet hospitalized. A small clinical trial showed that it reduced hospitalization and death by about 50%. Merck intends to seek emergency authorization from the FDA soon in hopes of the drug being authorized before the end of the year.
- The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will hold three meetings this month to discuss booster doses for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, as well as Pfizer’s request to authorize its vaccine for use with 5- to 11-year-olds. At UW Medicine, we remain ready to mobilize our teams should these authorizations happen, including for those under age 12. We will continue to keep everyone informed about booster and vaccine eligibility.
As we seek an eventual return to more normal activities, the increase in vaccine mandates, discovery of anti-viral therapies and broader access to immunization are changes that will bring us closer to th
Today’s update also includes:
- Local/National/Global Epidemiology
- Vaccination Summary
- Employee and Family COVID-19 Testing
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 154,839 total confirmed cases and 1,913 deaths as of Thursday, Oct. 7. The number of new positive tests is currently at 143.5/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 598,823 confirmed cases and 7,972 deaths as of Wednesday, Oct. 6.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 102,805 new cases, 43,997,504 total COVID-19 cases and 707,065 deaths as of Oct. 7.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 236,599,025 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,831,486 deaths as of Oct. 8.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Sept. 30
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 uwmedicine.org website and clicking on the COVID-19 Testing Access quick link. Testing is easy and helps slow further transmission of the virus.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine