As State officials predicted, three cases of the omicron variant were confirmed Dec. 4 in three different counties in Washington. Experts did not reveal details about the travel history of the patients. There was one patient each in Thurston, Pierce, and King counties.
Elsewhere in the nation, patients have been diagnosed with omicron who had no travel history, and infectious disease doctors predict that the new variant is likely already in many communities.
“We knew this day was inevitable, but the good news is we have more tools at our disposal to fight the virus than at any previous point in the pandemic, and we must continue to protect ourselves and our communities,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.
Thursday, June 4, marks 500 days since statewide efforts to curb the COVID-19 epidemic began. As of today, Washington has surpassed 7 million vaccine doses with more than 62% of Washingtonians ages 16 and over — or around 3.8 million people — receiving at least one dose.
In a press briefing Tuesday morning, Washington Department of Health (DOH) Secretary of Health Umair Shah expressed that high vaccination rates may lead to the elimination of capacity constraints on Washington businesses even before the state’s proposed date of June 30. This is entirely possible, provided that vaccination rates reach the 70% target in that time.
While it appears the finish line may be within view, Shah noted that a shift from increasing the supply of vaccines to maintaining demand for them is vital if the State hopes to reach their goal in time.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that the State would open eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all people over the age of 16 on April 15, a move that will allow another million Washingtonians to make appointments for the shot two weeks ahead of the standard set by the Biden administration.
There will not be enough supply to meet pent up demand from younger adults to get their vaccines immediately when eligibility opens in mid-April, cautioned Dr. Umair Shah, the secretary of the Washington State Department of Health. However, the federal government has increased the number of weekly vaccines delivered to the state and is likely to be able to further expand supply in May.
“While we are pleased and excited that we can open to everyone above the age of 16 on April 15, we also recognize that we have vaccine supply that continues to be a challenge for all of us,” Shah said. “That supply is something we’re continuing working with the federal administration on and the governor has done a lot from his seat to get more vaccine into the state of Washington.”
There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, but Washingtonians should not get complacent, public health officials emphasized in an online press conference on Thursday, March 25.
The State has so far administered 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and fewer than 4,000 doses have gone to waste, officials said. The State confirmed yesterday to the Seattle Times that people ages 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine by the May 1 deadline set by the Biden administration.