Yesterday, Public Health — Seattle & King County Health Officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin, released a new Health Directive aimed at improving the safety of indoor and outdoor public spaces. As of Oct. 25, most restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and similar facilities will be required to verify either a person’s COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test in the prior 72 hours. This is a positive effort to further reduce the risk of increased transmission as the weather turns and we head indoors. In addition to making these spaces safer for all (customers and workers), I hope that this will be another incentive for those still on the fence about getting vaccinated. I can’t emphasize this enough: the faster we get everyone vaccinated, the faster we will be able to resume more activities.
Over the last few weeks, I have been getting emails asking about when booster COVID vaccine doses will be available. While UW Medicine has been preparing for the possibility of CDC and FDA approval of Pfizer vaccine boosters for fully vaccinated individuals 12 and older, an FDA advisory panel today limited its recommendation to people 65 and older and those at high risk of severe COVID-19. Since this recommendation is still subject to CDC review, it does not change current guidance, which authorizes third doses only for moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals. If boosters are authorized for other groups, we will be ready to reopen our high-volume vaccination sites. The equitable distribution of those doses will again be an important consideration in our rollout, just as it was during the initial vaccination phase.
We know boosters are of great interest to our community — especially with the campus-wide return to in-person work this week — and we will keep you posted as we receive more guidance from the FDA and CDC. For those employees who returned to on-site work, please remember there is no outright way of knowing who is vaccinated until full vaccination becomes a condition of employment after the governor’s Oct. 18 deadline. Please continue to exercise good judgment and adhere to the universal indoor masking and physical distancing requirements throughout our buildings.
Also, should you experience any new symptoms or have a known COVID-19 exposure, report it immediately on your daily attestation and get tested right away. COVID-19 testing for UW Medicine staff, students, trainees, faculty and their families can be scheduled using links from the UW Medicine intranet or from the Employee Resources page on the public website (see below).
In addition, as the deadline to be fully vaccinated approaches, it is important that you submit your proof of vaccination to be recognized as fully compliant. If you are a clinical faculty member or a trainee (resident/fellow), you will need to complete the vaccination attestation in two ways: through Workday and through the UW Medicine employee portal.
Your action and cooperation are critical to increasing the safety of our workplaces as well as our compliance with Governor Inslee’s vaccination mandate. We appreciate the effort so many of you already have made. If you are not yet vaccinated, now is the time to make that appointment and get it done.
Along with vaccination, we continue to look for ways to make UW Medicine safer for patients and staff. Due to the increased number of shared patient spaces and outbreaks at HMC, inpatient visitation there is on a temporary hold.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our hospital and clinic policies as we continue to confront the changing phases of this pandemic.
Today’s update also includes:
- Local/National/Global Epidemiology
- Employee and family COVID-19 testing
- Medical misinformation and disinformation
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 137,477 total confirmed cases and 1,835 deaths as of Friday, Sept. 17. The number of new positive tests is currently at 175.3/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 550,093 confirmed cases and 7,145 deaths as of Sept. 15. Of the 9,198,758 people who have been tested, 5.98% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 155,882 new cases, 41,593,179 total COVID-19 cases and 666,440 deaths as of Sept. 16.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 226,844,344 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,666,334 deaths as of Sept. 17.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Sept. 16
Employee and family COVID-19 testing
A reminder to all that UW Medicine prioritizes COVID-19 testing for all employees and their families. You can easily access information from home about how to schedule by visiting the Employee Resources page on the uwmedicine.org website and clicking on the COVID-19 Testing Access quick link. We encourage all employees and families to be tested if they have symptoms or believe they have been exposed to COVID-19.
Medical misinformation and disinformation
In closing, I want to address a trend that has been troubling me for a while and should concern all of us as healthcare workers. That is, the growing volume of misinformation and disinformation online about COVID-19 therapies, treatments and vaccine substitutes. Not only are these falsehoods stoking distrust and fear, they are also fueling vaccine hesitancy, which is making it harder for us to control the spread of the virus and leading to more infections, more hospitalizations and more deaths.
As employees of UW Medicine, we are fortunate to work alongside some of the best scientists, physicians, nurses and other healthcare specialists in the world. Our resources are rooted in science and freely available to all. If you ever have questions about COVID-19, the vaccine, or how it protects against infection, I hope you’ll look to what we have available on The Huddle and uwmedicine.org from the Zoom Town Halls to the FAQs to our online community gatherings. Knowing the facts can help you make better decisions about your health and potentially save your life. Taken together, these decisions will get us back to all of the activities that we treasure as soon as possible.
Until next time, be healthy and 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