Statement on Federal School and Childcare Vaccination Plan

“As you heard today, President Biden announced a directive to all states to get every pre-K educator, K-12 teacher, and childcare worker at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine in the month of March.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) recognizes the importance of vaccinating educators, school staff, and childcare workers. School staff and childcare workers were already in the next group to become eligible for vaccines, and our state was moving to vaccinate them in a matter of weeks. This announcement represents a faster timeline than originally planned, and the department is engaging partners on a robust plan to support this directive.

DOH is working quickly to get clarity from the Biden Administration to ensure roll-out in our state will result in ample vaccine supply through various providers and equitable access for education and childcare workers. Vaccine supply will likely primarily be delivered through the federal pharmacy program, and the directive indicates all vaccine providers should prioritize these workers.

DOH remains committed to continued vaccination for older adults and others who are currently prioritized for vaccinations under the current plan. DOH also remains committed to vaccinating all Washingtonians as quickly and equitably as possible.

DOH acknowledges these announcements may cause a mix of excitement, concern, and confusion for different communities. The department will share more information in the days ahead as DOH learns more from our federal partners.”

COVID-19 prevention efforts remain critical despite declining trends

OLYMPIA – Today the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report on COVID-19.

Report findings include:

  • While trends in cases, hospitalizations and deaths are largely continuing to decline, some concerning signs remain. In particular, the state is detecting increasing numbers of cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that spreads more easily than other strains. As this variant continues to spread through the state and becomes predominant, case numbers and hospitalizations will likely increase and could strain health care resources.
  • COVID-19 transmission decreased in January following peaks in late December, but the reproductive number (Re) has remained close to 1 in both eastern and western Washington. The best estimate of the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) on Feb. 5 was 0.71 in western Washington and 0.88 in eastern Washington. The goal is maintaining a reproductive number well below one—meaning COVID-19 transmission is declining—for a substantial amount of time.
  • Case rates have remained high across the state but continue moving in the right direction. Only nine of 39 counties had rates above 200 new cases per 100,000 people over the two-week period ending on Feb. 11. No counties had rates above 500 new cases per 100,000 people.
  • The estimated percentage of people with active COVID-19 infections is only slightly lower than the peak estimates during the first two waves of disease in late March and mid-July 2020. The best model-based prevalence estimate as of Feb. 5 was 0.16%. That means we still have a lot of infected people who may need health care and could be spreading the virus to others.
  • Total hospital admissions have steadily declined since early January, with a slight flattening beginning in early February. While this trend is going in the right direction, hospital admissions as of early February were still only slightly lower than the highest levels in the first two waves of disease in 2020.
  • The number of hospital beds occupied by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients was steadily declining across the state as of Feb. 22. This trend follows a late fall spike that flattened in early to mid-January. The number of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has varied more, but has generally been declining since January.

“Despite the very positive signs we’re seeing in the data, we are still in a risky situation and we must all work to maintain and strengthen our prevention measures; however, I remain cautiously optimistic,” said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. “As we see cases of the B.1.1.7, B1.351, and other variants of concern increase, it’s more critical than ever to keep limiting gatherings, wearing masks, watching our distance and washing our hands.”

DOH partners with the Institute for Disease Modeling, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington and the Microsoft AI for Health program to develop these reports every other week. More COVID-19 data can be found on the DOH data dashboard and in the state’s Roadmap to Recovery dashboard.

US coronavirus death toll approaches milestone of 500,000

The U.S. stood Sunday at the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus.

A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.

“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Read the full article from AP

Aging & COVID-19: Vaccination, Mental and Physical Health, and Isolation

COVID-19 has changed older adult’s daily routines, the care and support they receive, and their ability to stay socially connected with others. Older adults are being challenged to spend more time alone and to forgo any physical contact with family members, friends and colleagues. All while dealing with the fear and anxiety of getting sick and potentially dying. Since the beginning of the pandemic the health impact of COVID-19 on older adults has been of great concern, especially those in long-term care facilities and congregate settings. As of February 11th, COVID-19 has claimed 166,403 lives in long-term care facilities, 36% of all reported COVID-19 cases in the United States.

This infographic explores aging during COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy in older adults and those who take care of them, the long term effects the pandemic will have on long-term care settings and how we address aging in the United States.

Learn more from NIHCM.

Vaccine Shipment Delays

“Winter storms are causing vaccine shipment delays across the nation. DOH estimates more than 90% of this week’s allocation will arrive late due to weather out east. Moderna vaccines have not shipped yet this week. Pfizer vaccines did not ship Monday, and only a limited number of vaccine shipments were processed Tuesday and Wednesday. These shipment delays may force providers to reschedule appointments. If you have a vaccine appointment this week, please contact your provider for an update.

Due to the delivery delays, the state-led mass vaccinations sites in Kennewick and Spokane will be closed through the weekend. Those with appointments will be contacted by email to reschedule their appointments for next week. The Ridgefield mass vaccination site will also be closed Saturday. No appointments were made for Saturday, so no one will need to reschedule an appointment.”

Enrollment Period for Marketplace Coverage Starts

“In accordance with the Executive Order signed by President Biden, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is announcing that the Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for the Health Insurance Marketplace® will officially be available to consumers in the 36 states that use the platform on Monday, February 15, and will continue through Saturday, May 15. At least 13 States plus the District of Columbia, which operate their own Marketplace platforms, have decided to offer a similar opportunity.

“President Biden was clear: we need to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and give more Americans access to health care, especially during this pandemic, which has further demonstrated the importance of having the right coverage. This Special Enrollment Period will give Americans who need affordable, quality health insurance an opportunity to get covered, and we encourage folks to head to starting on Monday to explore their options,” said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran.”

Read the full announcement from HHS.

‘Hidden homeless crisis’: After losing jobs and homes, more people are living in cars and RVs and it’s getting worse

“For months, Nicholas Atencio and his girlfriend, Heather Surovik, spent nearly every minute of their lives together in a 2000 Cadillac Escalade.

After Atencio, 33, lost his job as a plumber in May, he and Surovik, 36, delivered for Grubhub by day and at night curled up with their puppy on an air bed in the back of their car parked in a lot in Longmont, Colorado, dreaming of being reunited under one roof with Surovik’s teenage son who was living with his grandmother.

“I’m a mom, so I want to fix everything and make it better,” Surovik said. “It’s hard when you don’t have the means to do that when you can’t do anything because you don’t have anything.”

Americans are being driven into their vehicles by COVID-19 pandemic-fueled woes. And their ranks are likely to grow as the government safety net frays and evictions and foreclosures rise.”

Read the full article from USA Today.

Vaccine Monitor: Reasons Vary Why People Want to “Wait and See” Before Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

The latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor reports that 31% of the public say that when an FDA-approved vaccine for COVID-19 is available to them for free, they will “wait until it has been available for a while to see how it is working for other people” before getting vaccinated themselves. This “wait and see” group is an important target for outreach and messaging, since they express some hesitancy about getting vaccinated, but will likely be much easier to convert from vaccine-hesitant to vaccine-acceptant than those who say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine or will get it “only if required” to do so. As reported in January, those in the “wait and see” category express high levels of concern about the safety and long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccines as well as a desire for more information about vaccine side effects and effectiveness. Most adults in this group (60%) do not yet know someone who’s been vaccinated for COVID-19, presenting an opportunity for them to learn more as more of their friends and family members get vaccinated.

This analysis examines the “wait and see” group in more detail, with a focus on their concerns about being vaccinated, the messages that resonate most, and the messengers they are likely to turn to for more information about COVID-19 vaccination. In particular, it looks at how attitudes within this group differ by partisanship and race/ethnicity, which should be helpful for those looking to target vaccine outreach and communication to groups like Republicans, Black adults, and Hispanic adults.

Read the full article from KFF.