NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 25th, 2021

COVID-19 Update: Pacific Northwest mounts valiant effort to avoid wintertime virus spike

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.

Wash­ing­ton

Ear­li­er this month, on Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 8th, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee announced his Healthy Wash­ing­ton — Road to Recov­ery program.

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.

Oregon

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.

Idaho

On Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 12th, a vac­ci­na­tion process cre­at­ed by the state of Ida­ho in mid-Decem­ber was clar­i­fied, and clar­i­fied again on Fri­day, 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.

British Colum­bia

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.

A four-phase immu­niza­tion pro­gram for the province is cur­rent­ly in effect. Den­tists and teach­ers are unhap­py that they are not pri­or­i­tized for vaccinations.

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.

The hard, cold numbers (plus vaccinations)

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%)

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