Care Connect Washington

Care Connect Washington

The Care Connect team is working with partners in providing Regional Care Coordination hubs to ensure essential services reach people who are in home isolation or quarantine as they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or come in contact with someone who has tested positive.

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Some immunocompromised individuals should receive four doses of COVID-19 vaccine

A fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine can help some people with weakened immune systems be less likely to catch COVID-19 and get severely ill. Certain individuals who are immunocompromised may receive up to four doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which includes two primary doses of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), an additional primary dose, and a booster dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people ages 5 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get an additional primary shot (third dose) of an mRNA vaccine 28 days after receiving their second dose. An additional primary shot may prevent serious and possibly life-threatening COVID-19 in people who may not have responded well to their two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine primary series. Currently, no additional primary shot is recommended for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Everyone 12 years of age and older, including immunocompromised people, should get a booster shot when they are eligible. Those who received Pfizer or Moderna should get a booster 5 months after completing their primary series and people who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster 2 months after their first dose.

“COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, but some immunocompromised individuals don’t get strong enough immunity following their initial two-dose series,” said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer. “Receiving an additional primary dose and a booster dose will help protect those who are more susceptible to the disease. Getting everyone up to date on all vaccine doses they are eligible to receive can also help protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”

According to the CDC, people are considered moderately or severely immunocompromised if they have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress their immune system.

People should talk to their trusted healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional primary shot is appropriate for them. For more information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Washington State Department of Health’s website.

Free N95 Masks Available for Pick Up at Local Pharmacies and Community Health Centers

Wearing a mask is a critical way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks and respirators, when worn consistently and correctly, are effective at reducing the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. The Biden Administration is making available 400 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile for free to the public.

Free N95 masks are available to pick up at local pharmacies and community health center sites across the country. Every person is allowed up to 3 free masks pending availability.

Partners include: Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart, and others.

Get Free At-⁠Home COVID-⁠19 Tests

The federal government website for providing free COVID tests is now active:

“Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order #4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.

The tests available for order:

  • Are rapid antigen at-home tests, not PCR
  • Can be taken anywhere
  • Give results within 30 minutes (no lab drop-off required)
  • Work whether or not you have COVID-⁠19 symptoms
  • Work whether or not you are up to date on your COVID-⁠19 vaccines
  • Are also referred to as self-tests or over-the-counter (OTC) tests”

COVID-19 cases spike significantly in the past week

Omicron variant likely cause

OLYMPIA — The state of Washington is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, and transmission is expected to rise in the coming weeks. While it is still too early to tell how much of the increase is due to Omicron, epidemiologists with the Washington State Department of health (DOH) agree that Omicron prevalence is increasing and is most likely the dominant strain.

While additional data are still being sent to the state, the largest single-day report of new cases so far occurred on December 24, with 6,140 new COVID-19 cases. Despite a recent increase in testing around the holidays, public health officials say the increase in new cases significantly outpaces the increase in testing. The number of cases is expected to continue to increase through the new year.

The spike in cases, together with the first cases of the flu this season, will likely mean increased hospitalizations in the near future, raising concerns about the state’s health care system. Washington state’s hospitals and clinics are already stretched and strained due to an exhausted and understaffed workforce who have been caring for more patients than ever before.

About Omicron

State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases, Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH, says Omicron likely has overtaken the Delta variant in Washington or will very soon based on sequencing information from the University of Washington, our state, and the CDC.

“What we are seeing now is the leading edge. Our focus is on getting a better picture of how and where Omicron is spreading,” he said. “It is not just about counting Omicron cases. It is about sampling the entire state so we can understand the prevalence of the variant beyond high-population areas. Washington state has one of the most extensive genotyping systems in the U.S., which allows us to track a variant’s spread faster than many other states.”

Studies are ongoing to determine the effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutic treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals, against Omicron. Based on initial information, it appears that most monoclonal antibodies may not be as effective against this variant, although Sotrovimab, a medication that the FDA is allowing for emergency use to treat COVID-19, may be more effective against Omicron.

Early results also indicate that the initial vaccine series may be less effective at preventing infection with the Omicron variant, but still offer substantial protection against infection and severe illness. Receiving a booster dose may improve protection against severe disease with Omicron.

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines now recommended over Johnson & Johnson

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is recommending people 18 and older choose to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) instead of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. This update follows guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. Individuals who wish to receive the J&J vaccine are encouraged to reach out to their health care provider to discuss their options as J&J will still be available across the state.

The preferential recommendation follows new data presented to the ACIP about thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. TTS is a rare but serious condition involving blood clots and a low blood platelet count seen in some people who received the J&J vaccine. However, the risk is rare. Nationwide, 54 cases of TTS, including nine confirmed deaths, have been reported, which is a fraction of a percent of the 14 million doses of J&J given overall. While TTS has been seen in both men and women, the most at-risk group is women 30 through 49. People who received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

Of the more than 11.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine given out across Washington, about 436,000 doses have been the J&J vaccine, which equals about 4%. According to data reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through Nov. 30, there have been six possible cases of TTS following J&J vaccinations in Washington, including one death.

“Public health and safety are, and will always be, our top priorities, which is why we are adopting this new guidance,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “Today, more than 5 million Washingtonians are fully vaccinated, which means they are protecting themselves from serious illness, hospitalization, and death. I continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated and, with this news, boosted with an mRNA vaccine as soon as possible.”

Omicron Variant Increases Worries and Gives Momentum to COVID-19 Booster Shots

The emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant is encouraging many already vaccinated adults to get a recommended booster shot but is providing only a little motivation for unvaccinated adults to get an initial shot, a new KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor quick response survey finds.

Fielded from Dec. 15-20 to provide an early look at omicron’s potential impact on the public’s vaccination intentions, the survey finds that about half (54%) of vaccinated adults who haven’t gotten a booster dose say news of the omicron variant will make them more likely to do so.

Omicron’s emergence appears to be having a much smaller, but not insignificant, effect on unvaccinated adults. The survey finds that 12% of those who are unvaccinated say it makes them more likely to get an initial shot, but a much larger share (87%) say it does not make them more likely to do.

Read the full article from KFF.

Updated COVID Resources

Get a vaccine, exposure notifications, COVID-10 testing, and proof of vaccination. 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. Once vaccinated, you can provide your vaccination status using WA Verify.

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

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

The state COVID-19 Assistance Hotline is a general information line related to COVID-19. If you need information or have a general question, call 1-800-525-0127, then press # or text 211-211 for help. New hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and on observed state holidays. You can also text the word “Coronavirus” to 211-211 to receive information and updates on your phone wherever you are. You will receive links to the latest information on COVID-19, including county-level updates, and resources for families, businesses, students, and more.

Washington Listens helps people manage stress and anxiety they may be experiencing because of COVID-19. If you or anyone you know is having difficulties managing stress, call the Washington Listens support line at 1-833-681-0211. Hours are 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 their preferred method. See resources and self-help tips from Washington Listens.

COVID-19 Variants: Omicron Rising

About the Data Insights

Omicron was first detected in the U.S. on December 1st and scientists are racing to understand the variant. Preliminary data suggests Omicron spreads more rapidly than other variants and is milder, although some scientists think it’s too early to know.

The recent arrival of Omicron to the United States has raised concerns about vaccine effectiveness and the future of the pandemic as we head into the new year. The emergence of variants and persistent vaccine inequality highlights the global nature of the pandemic. As more Americans are getting their booster shots, efforts are underway to get initial doses of vaccines to poor countries.