New research confirms hospitalization risk higher with four COVID-19 variants

People in Washington state infected with Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants have a higher risk of hospitalization compared to those infected with non-variant versions of SARS-CoV-2, according to new research from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), in collaboration with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Institute for Disease Modeling at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and and UW Medicine Virology Lab. The variants Gamma and Beta have the highest estimated risk for hospitalization.

Additional research was conducted to examine the risk of hospitalization among people infected with these variants who were vaccinated and those who were unvaccinated. Overall, they found that people infected with Alpha, Beta, Gamma or Delta variants who were vaccinated had a lower risk of hospitalization.

When researchers looked at the variants separately, the same pattern of a lower risk of hospitalization for vaccinated people was seen in people infected with the Alpha, Gamma, or Delta variants. The Beta variant was excluded from this analysis due to the low number of Beta infections.

The study has been published on medRxiv, a free online archive and distribution server for unpublished manuscripts (preprints) in the medical, clinical, and related health sciences that have not yet been peer reviewed. 

Is trick-or-treating safe? How to celebrate Halloween amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Trick-or-treating is back this year. Sort of.

The Center for Disease Control has given a green light for children nationwide to trick or treat this Halloween – one year after the CDC advised against the tradition last year due to COVID-19 concerns, instead suggesting one-way trick-or-treating as an alternative.

Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the U.S. – 13% the last week of September – but community transmission remains high amid the delta variant, according to the CDC. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told CBS News. “I wouldn’t necessarily go to a crowded Halloween party, but I think we should be able to let our kids go trick-or-treating in small groups.”

Experts say it’s still best to take precautionary measures for Halloween given that most trick-or-treating children are under 11 years old and some are likely to still be unvaccinated.

Read the full article from USA Today.

Disability, Health Equity & COVID-19

People with disabilities have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic as they face a greater risk of poor health outcomes, reduced access to routine services and care, and adverse social outcomes. Individuals with disabilities were more likely to face unemployment during the pandemic and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities were six times as likely to die from COVID-19 than other people. Additionally, people with disabilities experienced disparities in the public health response to COVID-19 due to lack of appropriate data collection and accessibility barriers in information, testing and vaccination.

This infographic highlights the challenges facing the disability community as well as clear steps that can be taken to support the health and well-being of this community.

 

Read the entire article from NIHCM.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Dose Recommended for Certain Individuals

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will immediately begin offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to certain individuals following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP), and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

At least six months after completing the primary Pfizer vaccine series, the following individuals should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine:

  • People 65 years of age and older,
  • People 18 years of age and older living in a long-term care setting, and
  • People 50 – 64 years of age with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk of social inequities.

Additionally, the following individuals who completed a Pfizer vaccine series at least six months ago may receive a Pfizer booster dose:

“COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the highly transmissible Delta variant,” said Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH. “As COVID-19 continues to evolve, booster doses will further protect vaccinated people who are at high-risk and those whose protection has decreased over time.”

At this time, there are not yet recommendations for people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA will evaluate data in the coming weeks and may make additional recommendations for other vaccine types. However, certain people who are immunocompromised can receive a third dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) following recommendations last month from the FDA, ACIP, and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 12 and older. Currently, there is plenty of vaccine available across the state for everyone who needs a dose. To find a vaccine location near you, visit Vaccine Locator or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #. Language assistance is available.

Recap of Recent COVID-19 News and Updates

Newest numbers. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reported a total of 562,104 confirmed cases as of 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 20. In all, there have been 7,315 deaths in Washington due to COVID-19.

For the most recent data on cases by county, demographics, and more, visit the Department of Health’s dashboard and the state’s Washington Ready page.

Updated DOH guidance documents. These guidance documents have been translated into the following languages:

COVID-19 long-term care report. As of Sept. 20, a total of 23,363 COVID-19 cases and 2,865 deaths have been identified as associated or likely associated with a long-term care facility (such as nursing home, assisted living facility, or adult family home). These cases include residents as well as employees and visitors. Read the full Sept. 21 report.

Inslee letter to Zients requests federal medical staffing resources. Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to Jeff Zients, federal COVID-19 response coordinator, requesting federal staffing resources—including clinical and non-clinical staff—to support the Washington health care system in response to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. Read the full news release.

Resources

Get a vaccine, exposure notifications, and testing. Use the DOH vaccine locator to help end the pandemic. Next, get WA Notify so you’ll know if you’ve been near another person who later tests positive for COVID-19. To get quickly and easily tested anywhere in Washington, visit the DOH COVID-19 testing locations page. For K-12 students, staff, and parents/guardians, learn more about our partnership that helps schools provide easy COVID-19 testing on site.

Latest COVID-19 reopening guidance for businesses and workers. A full list of current reopening guidance from the Governor’s Office.

Guidance and resources for employers and business owners. Sign up for the weekly Economic Resiliency Team business and worker newsletter.

The state COVID-19 Assistance Hotline is for general COVID-19 information and questions. Call 1-800-525-0127, then press # or text 211-211 for help. Hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and on state holidays. You can also text the word “Coronavirus” to  211-211 to receive links to the latest COVID-19 information on your phone, including county-level updates, and resources for families, businesses and students.

Washington Listens support line helps people manage stress and anxiety. If you or anyone you know is having difficulties managing stress right now, call the Washington Listens support line at 1-833-681-0211 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. TTY and language access services are available by using 7-1-1 or your preferred method. Resources and self-help tips are also available on walistens.org.

Children & COVID, Boosters, & Climate Change

Back to School: Children and COVID-19

As students return to in-person learning this year, schools continue to grapple with reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the evolving state of the pandemic. The recent surges in cases and hospitalizations among children and the Delta variant are particularly concerning for children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The ongoing health, economic, and social consequences of the pandemic continue to impact children.

  • Cases and hospitalizations: Cases have jumped as the Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated populations and has led to a record high in children’s hospitalizationsDoctors predict COVID-19 cases will continue to rise among children and children’s hospitals are preparing for an uptick in multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
  • Back to school: Across the country, students and teachers are quarantined for coronavirus exposure and some schools have already switched back to remote learning. While districts begin announcing vaccine mandates for teachers, some states are challenging mask mandates in schools.
  • Vaccine: The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available for children ages 5 to 11 in late fall or early winter. More parents are considering vaccinations as more children are infected by the Delta variant. Currently, over 50% of adolescents ages 12 to 15 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the Full Article from NIHCM.

Behavioral Health Resources for Back to School

As we see students and educators head back into the classroom and restart the in-person learning routine, the Department of Health (DOH) is providing behavioral health tips and resources for navigating the emotional responses that children, teens, and adults may experience during this exciting and stressful time.

The COVID-19 Back-to-Classroom THINK Toolbox is a resource to help with adjusting to the return of in-person school and learning. THINK, which stands for Teaching with Healthcare Informed Neurological strategies for Kids, is a toolbox with information to help school-age children and teens deal with the emotional impacts of COVID-19, and tips on how to build and maintain resilience and practice self-care during a disaster.

“Children and teens are uniquely affected by the pandemic,” says Dr. Kira Mauseth, co-lead for the behavioral health strike team at the Department of Health. “Children and youth process information differently than adults. They need different structures in place to support them through disasters and large transitions, such as promoting recovery in the classroom, and return to back-to-classroom education. The THINK Toolbox was developed to address these areas and some of the trauma and stress that we’ve all experienced as a result of the pandemic.”

Increased anxiety, acting out, and behavioral regression at home or at school are some of the behavioral health responses that parents, caregivers and teachers are likely to see or encounter in students this fall. Also be aware of “red flag behaviors” such as suicidal thinking or expression (talking about it), violence, and aggression – these behaviors will require more or additional professional support. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), they are twice as likely to experience more intense and more frequent behavior problems during the pandemic.

As schools are now open for in-person learning, ‘back to classroom’ education and recovery for students is also underway. When promoting recovery in the classroom, it is important to remember that some students come from groups that have been more severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this in mind, encouraging and building resilience for students is key! Activities that facilitate cooperation and communication, and helping children and youth develop self-efficacy (their belief in their ability to achieve a goal) are very important aspects for resilience in the classroom. Activities that also provide structure, consistency and the opportunity to contribute should also be strongly emphasized.

“As a parent and a physician, I know that in-person learning is hugely beneficial to children’s overall well-being,” says Umair Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “In-person interaction helps ensure equitable access to education for all students. The work we do now to keep them safe will, in the long term, lead to a brighter and healthier future for our kids.”

Teachers, coaches, school staff, mentors, parents, and caregivers are also at risk for additional anxiety right now. For these groups, practicing self-care in the ways that specifically work for them, is the best medicine. More than ever, patience and compassion are required right now.

Additional Resources:

‘A lot of these people are not going to make it,’ official warns as Washington COVID hospitalizations continue rising

While recent state data is still preliminary, early reports show COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the state are up after the Labor Day weekend, pushing hospital leaders to continue their plea for residents to mask up, get vaccinated and be wary of mass gatherings.

At a news briefing Tuesday morning, Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said that after the weekend, hospital officials counted 1,674 Washingtonians hospitalized with the virus, a 7% increase from last week. “Even more shocking,” she said, 251 of those patients are on ventilators, reflecting a 34% increase from last week.

“To be clear, a lot of these people are not going to make it,” Sauer said. The patients are “almost exclusively” unvaccinated individuals, or people who are immunocompromised, she said.

Read the full article from the Seattle Times.

COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Professional Services Providers

On August 9, 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation that requires state agencies, healthcare workers, and educators to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  DSHS has determined this includes professional services providers contracted with DDA.

DSHS contracted providers who are licensed, certified, or registered as a healthcare professional with the Department of Health must be vaccinated by October 18, 2021.

Fully vaccinated means two weeks after your last vaccination.  A person must have had their last vaccination by October 4, 2021, to be considered fully vaccinated by the October 18 deadline.

The complete list of healthcare professionals who must be vaccinated can be found at Healthcare Professional Credentialing Requirements

The Washington State Department of Health’s DOH Vaccine Locator can help you make an appointment or find a walk-in site to receive the vaccine.

Additional information and directive can be found at:

Recap of Recent COVID-19 News and Updates

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021

Statewide Response Updates

Newest numbers. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reported a total of 505,476 confirmed cases as of 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 30. In all, there have been 6,574 deaths in Washington due to COVID-19.

For the most recent data on cases by county, demographics, and more, visit the Department of Health’s dashboard and the Washington Ready and COVID-19 Risk Assessment Dashboard.

Inslee updates higher education proclamation to align with recent vaccine requirement announcements. Gov. Inslee updated Proclamation 20-12 (Higher Education). Read the full Aug. 27 news release.

Resources

Latest COVID-19 reopening guidance for businesses and workers. A full list of current reopening guidance from the Governor’s Office.

Find a COVID-19 testing location near you. To make it easier to find a test near you, the DOH has created a webpage to help people find COVID-19 testing locations throughout the state.

Guidance and resources for employers and business owners. Sign up for the weekly Economic Resiliency Team business and worker newsletter.

The state COVID-19 Assistance Hotline is for general COVID-19 information and questions. Call 1-800-525-0127, then press # or text 211-211 for help. Hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and on state holidays. You can also text the word “Coronavirus” to  211-211 to receive links to the latest COVID-19 information on your phone, including county-level updates, and resources for families, businesses and students.

Washington Listens support line helps people manage stress and anxiety. If you or anyone you know is having difficulties managing stress right now, call the Washington Listens support line at 1-833-681-0211 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. TTY and language access services are available by using 7-1-1 or your preferred method. Resources and self-help tips are also available on walistens.org.