It’s time for another installment of of our special series COVID-19 Update, bringing you the latest developments on the novel coronavirus outbreak that public health authorities here and across the country are working to mitigate.
As in previous iterations of dealing with the pandemic, the approach is regional, with four metrics and two phases used to determine each region’s status.
To move forward from Phase 1 to Phase 2, a given region must achieve and maintain all of the following:
- A decreasing trend in the fourteen-day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100K population
- A decreasing trend in the fourteen-day rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100K population
- An average seven-day percent occupancy of ICU staffed beds less than 90
- A seven-day percent positivity of COVID-19 tests less than 10%
In order to remain in Phase 2, a region must continue meeting at least three of four metrics:
- A decreasing or flat trend in fourteen-day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100K population
- A decreasing or flat trend in fourteen-day rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100K population
- An average seven-day percent occupancy of ICU staffed beds less than 90%
- A seven-day percent positivity of COVID-19 tests less than 10%
On Monday, January 18th, Governor Inslee announced an update to the vaccine distribution program with a goal of 45,000 vaccinations per day.
This effort will be led by the Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center, a new statewide public-private partnership to boost vaccine distribution efforts. Two new changes include vaccinations for Phase 1b, from those 70 and older to those 65 and older, and a requirement that both 95% of all vaccine allocations be administered within a week of receipt and that updates regarding usage and remaining availability of dosages must be submitted to the state Department of Health within twenty-four hours of administration.
While infrastructure is being assembled or made available throughout the state to provide vaccinations, there is stress regarding the availability of vaccination dosages, as shown within Yakima County and in a discussion with Governor Inslee regarding efforts in Spokane.
On Saturday, January 23rd, the B117 variant of COVID-19, also known as the “U.K. variant,” was announced to have been found in two cases in Snohomish County, with a third announced as having been discovered on Sunday, January 24th in Pierce County.
More cases are expected to already exist within the state.
The “UK variant” appears to be easier to transmit with a faster infection rate, but their is no substantive proof yet that it is more deadly.
On Monday, January 11th, a member of staff at the University of Portland was found to be infected with the “UK variant” of COVID-19.
A second case was discovered within Yamhill County and announced to the public on January 23rd. The patient in the second case had no recent history of travel outside their immediate area.
Anticipating a new supply of vaccine around Saturday, January 23rd, the state of Oregon had planned to give equal priority to vaccination for both daycare and school employees, and senior citizens over 65 years of age.
However, upon discovery that the new supply effectively did not exist to give to the state, Governor Kate Brown, on January 22nd, announced new plans to open eligibility for vaccinations to all educators January 25th and to Senior citizens over 80 years of age on February 8th.
Governor Brown believes that, with a very limited supply, vaccinating educators first would allow both schools and portions of the economy to open — that to vaccinate seniors first would lead to not enough seniors being vaccinated, schools unopened because not enough teachers are vaccinated, and the economy, at best, muted. As almost all other states have decided to vaccinate seniors between very early and first in the process, this has led to some controversy and a tense situation at Governor Brown’s press conference on January 22nd.
As of January 12th, over thirty thousand healthcare workers and long-term care staff had been vaccinated.
On Friday, January 22nd, Governor Brad Little denounced the Idaho state Legislature, which voted for and passed on to the state Senate a resolution to end the emergency order in effect regarding Covid-19.
But this shouldn’t be a surprise for Governor Little.
Members of the Idaho state legislature, since the start of their 2021 legislative session starting Monday, January 11th, have been considering putting forward proposals to remove local health districts’ ability to create restrictions due to a public health emergency and hand the authority over to county commissioners.
On Thursday, January 14th, mask mandates were rolled back in multiple eastern Idaho counties. On Tuesday, January 19th, former Republican member of Congress Raul Labrador was voted onto the Central District Health Board by Ada County Commissioners instead of an alternate candidate, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert. This was done in spite of Labrador having recently registered to lobby for three local health care groups within the state.
Finally, ending the emergency order has been known for months to be a desire of a group of Republican legislators that on October 1st, 2020, alongside Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, questioned the existence of COVID-19 and declared that they would follow no state or local emergency orders regarding the pandemic.
On Thursday, January 7th, a petition was filed within the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking judicial review to overturn existing orders restricting church services within the province during the pandemic, citing a violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The general consensus of the pastors involved in the lawsuit is that there isn’t justification to declare the pandemic a health emergency.
The British Columbia Teachers Federation is calling for the suspension of the Foundation Skills Assessment this year, administered to children in Grades Four through Seven, saying it adds a layer of stress to kids adjusting to COVID-19.
On Friday, January 22nd, two Vancouver residents were charged with violation of the Yukon Civil Emergency Measures Act for chartering a plane to the Yukon, posing as local employees, to receive vaccinations ahead of schedule. The charges come with a maximum fine of $500 and up to six months in jail.
On the same day, the provincial government declared a total of six infections from the “UK variant” and three infections from a South African variant of COVID-19.
Washington has had 303,491 cases and 4,196 attributable deaths.
48th worst infection rate among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
45th worst death rate among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
4,373,646 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 820,875
- Doses administered: 373,423 (45.49%)
Oregon has had 138,168 cases and 1,880 attributable deaths.
49th worst infection rate among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
48th worst death rate among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
3,043,792 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 479,325
- Doses administered: 216,928 (45.26%)
Idaho has had 159,506 cases and 1,669 attributable deaths.
961,106 tests have been recorded.
15th worst infection rate among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
38th worst death rate among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 178,175
- Doses administered: 73,372 (41.18%)
British Columbia has had 63,484 cases and 1,128 attributable deaths.
1,636,665 tests have been recorded.
British Columbia has the fifth worst infection rate among the thirteen Canadian provinces and territories per hundred thousand population. (If it were an American state, it would be fifty-second out of fifty-three.)
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the province: 144,550
- Doses administered: 110,566 (76.49%)