by Sally James
The first case in the United States of the newly identified COVID-19 variant – omicron – was confirmed today in California in a traveler who had recently returned from South Africa.
Word of this was part of a Washington Department of Health press conference, as Secretary of Health Umair Shah, M.D., M.P.H., interrupted the discussion Wednesday, Dec. 1, to make note of it. Officials expect that this variant will eventually be identified in Washington.
Continue reading New COVID-19 Variant – Omicron – Shows Up in California, Washington Tracking Virus
by Sally James
Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Director Umair Shah told reporters on Wednesday, Sept. 29, that hospitalizations from COVID-19 have continued to level off, but he warned that the public should not breathe a sigh of relief just yet.
“The numbers remain high. Too high,” Shah said during a virtual press conference. He compared the full hospitals and tired hospital staff members to a rubber band that is doomed to fail at some point if stretched for too long.
Continue reading Hospitals Still Straining Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
by Elizabeth Turnbull
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccination mandate for K–12 educators and workers, an expansion of the indoor mask mandate, and a vaccination requirement for individuals in the State’s higher education institutions and for most childcare providers.
Similar to Inslee’s Aug. 9, announcement, which dictates that most State workers need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 in order to maintain their employment, today the Governor expanded this requirement to K–12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers, and others working in school facilities, who will have until the same date to become fully vaccinated or lose their jobs.
“We have kids who are under the age of twelve who are unable to get vaccinated,” Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah said at a press conference Wednesday. “The challenge that we’ve had is when kids go to school and they are unvaccinated, then masking really is one of your tools, but the other tool we have is adults around those kids [being vaccinated].”
Continue reading State Mandates Vaccinations for School System Employees, Expands Mask-Wearing Indoors
by Carolyn Bick
Though Washington State appears to be on track to eventually meet its goal of a 70% vaccination rate among people aged 16 and older, it does not appear that it will meet this goal before the planned state reopening date of June 30. The state is also experiencing an increase in the P.1 virus variant, rather than the recently identified Delta variant about which many other states are expressing concern.
As of this writing, the state sits at an exactly 68% vaccination rate among people aged 16 and older, State Department of Health (DOH) Sec. of Health Dr. Umair Shah said in a June 23 briefing. On June 9, the rate was 66.4%, so the state’s current rate represents just a 1.6% increase in vaccinations among people ages 16 and up.
Continue reading State Inches Away From Vaccination Rate Goal, P.1 Gains Traction
by Ashley Archibald
Roughly 60% of Washingtonians aged 16 and above have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s progress — but still short of the 70% goal, health officials said at a press conference on May 26.
Vaccines are the “road to the future,” said Umair Shah, Washington State’s secretary of health.
Continue reading Washington Vaccinations Still Short of Public Health Goal
by Carolyn Bick
King County and more than a dozen other counties will stay in Phase 3 of the State’s reopening plan, despite the fact that they have exceeded the metrics required to stay in Phase 3, Gov. Jay Inslee announced in a press conference on Tuesday, May 4.
Inslee said that the State will be “pausing” the regular two-week county metric evaluations for two weeks, which effectively means that no counties will be evaluated for another two weeks. It was widely expected that Inslee would move King County back into Phase 2 of the State’s reopening plan, but because the county’s case rates and hospitalization rates have flattened, for the most part, King County will not be moving back.
Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC), explained in the press conference that the case rate for the County has stayed fairly level for the last two weeks. He also said that King County hospitals have seen a plateau in emergency visits for COVID-like illness.
The case rate metric to stay in Phase 3 is at or less than 200 cases per 100,000 people. According to data from the Roadmap to Recovery dashboard, King County sits at almost 243 cases per 100,000 people. This data is current as of May 2, 2021.
Continue reading State Officials Pause Reopening Plan Evaluation, Keeping King County in Phase 3
by Ashley Archibald
Novel coronavirus vaccination efforts are ramping up in Washington State while hospitalization rates and deaths are declining statewide, but Washingtonians need to continue prevention strategies to keep the curve down and keep stress off the health care systems, Washington health officials said in an online briefing on Thursday.
Continue reading Washington DOH Cautiously Optimistic About COVID-19, Urges Vigilance on Variants
by Andrew Engelson
In an online press conference on Feb. 10, Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said that while 940,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the state, challenges remain as federal supplies remain lower than demand, and inequities in vaccine distribution among communities of color are becoming apparent.
Continue reading While State COVID-19 Numbers Improve Slightly, Vaccination Inequities in BIPOC Communities Are a Concern