It’s reassuring to see King County COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalized cases continuing a slow downward trend. Positive cases of patients hospitalized at UW Medicine hospitals have numbered in the 90s over the past few weeks but are down to 57 today. This is hopeful progress, and a sign that more people in our community are becoming vaccinated and the steps we have taken on masking are working. I’m hopeful this trend continues as we enter the fall months.
The big news today is a new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on giving booster doses. UW Medicine is now scheduling appointments for boosters of the Pfizer vaccine for the following individuals who completed their initial Pfizer vaccine series at least six months previously:
- Age 65 and older
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- Ages 18-64 with underlying medical conditions or who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting, including healthcare workers
At UW Medicine, we are ready to mobilize our teams around this guidance. You will receive more information about eligibility and employee scheduling as we begin the rollout of boosters to eligible groups.
As we’re less than one month from the governor’s Oct. 18 deadline for full vaccination as a condition of employment, I wanted to clarify a few things on the process to be recognized as compliant. If you get an email or message asking about your vaccination status, please reply or connect with your employee health team to make sure we have your correct immunization information. UW Medicine is a big community, and we want to do our best to have the most accurate information.
This is also a good time to remind ourselves about the guidelines for COVID-19 exposures. According to CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people who have come into close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should get tested 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. For those who are fully vaccinated, work in clinical areas and live with a person with COVID-19, we continue to require home quarantine. All exposures should be reported to Employee Health for risk assessment and recommendations. We have an amazing group of individuals working on the Employee Health Exposure Teams ready to help. Thank you, again, for your cooperation and patience with these important processes surrounding vaccination and exposure compliance.
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 140,514 total confirmed cases and 1,854 deaths as of Friday, Sept. 24. The number of new positive tests is currently at 159/7 days/100,000 people (community transmission level = high).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 567,011 confirmed cases and 7,434 deaths as of Sept. 22. Of the 9,842,443 people who have been tested, 5.8% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 120,770 new cases, 42,501,643 total COVID-19 cases and 680,688 deaths as of Sept. 23.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 230,418,451 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,724,876 deaths.
UW Medicine Vaccination Summary as of Sept. 23
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 the Employee Resources page 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.
Please note this weekend the UW Medicine Employee COVID-19 Testing Survey will be unavailable from 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24 until 1 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 for a software upgrade. During this period, you will not be able to take the REDCap survey, which is required prior to scheduling an appointment for COVID-19 PCR testing. You can also find this link, along with all of the COVID-19 policies and protocols, at one.uwmedicine.org/coronavirus.
Fall and winter typically bring an increase in respiratory illnesses, such as influenza. Many respiratory viruses cause symptoms like COVID-19, making testing and vaccination more important. While most employees of UW Medicine already have been vaccinated against COVID-19, we also encourage all to be vaccinated against flu. Our annual flu vaccine administration begins Monday, Oct. 4. Be looking for more details in future messages. Meanwhile, our Laboratory Medicine and clinical lab teams are working on in-house patient testing approaches for non-COVID-19 respiratory viruses. Such tests, along with our current safety protocols, will help us keep UW Medicine safer for all in the months ahead. Fortunately, for the moment, we are not seeing any flu circulating. As the season progresses, we’ll make sure to update this community.
Yesterday morning, Dr. Sharon Romm, a psychiatrist at Harborview Medical Center, sent an email message to the Infection Prevention & Control and Employee Health teams there. Her unit had recently had an outbreak that was hard to control. In her message, Dr. Romm wrote about how we all are feeling many emotions, including anger, suffering, exhaustion and fear. Despite all this, she is trying to find a way through all of it. I am going to finish today’s message with some of her words of wisdom:
“It’s easy, at times, to let the reason for our work fade from our thoughts. We’re here for the patients who are unlikely to have a decent life without our care.
“Are you spiritual? Religious? Is your life guided by principles of ethics? Do you belong to a culture of giving and caring for others? Now is the time to call on your beliefs, to look for your strengths and keep on fighting.
“Is there a silver lining? We share warm feelings with many we hardly know. It can take great effort to find a nugget of hope within us and speak to encourage others as discouraged as ourselves. And we gratefully receive any support we’re offered.
“We share a common bond with all who work on our unit and in our hospital: We are all suffering; we are all angry; we are all afraid. We are all wishing this wasn’t happening, but it is and we remember that we are all in it together.”
Thank you Dr. Romm and every person reading this message for your unwavering support as we track the shifting tides and ride the waves of this pandemic together.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine