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.
On August 18th, Governor Jay Inslee reinstated a statewide mask requirement for shared indoor spaces, effective August 23rd, and ordered that all educators must receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to gain or retain their employment. This happened after Snohomish County announced a mask mandate on August 12th, and as Pierce and King Counties were announcing their own mask mandates.
State requirements were clarified and further expanded upon August 20th through two amendments to existing proclamations — 20.25 (“Washington Ready”) and 21.14 (“Covid Vaccination Requirement”).
Accompanying a requirement on August 9th that most state workers, on-site contractors and volunteers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment before October 18th, Washington State presently has among the strictest measures in the United States. The action was taken in response to the latest surge in Covid-19 cases and a shortfall of healthcare workers.
“More than 95% of the COVID hospitalizations we see today are among the unvaccinated,” said Inslee; “And it is heart-rending for us to see losing our neighbors, our co-workers, our students to a preventable disease.”
On August 24th, King County declared itself the first large county in the United States, with over three million shots administered, to have had more than seventy percent of all age groups age twelve and older, and across all racial and ethnic groups, receive at least one dose of COVID-19.
On the evening of August 24th, at a meeting of the Franklin County Commission, Commissioner Clint Didier and a number of citizens in the audience refused to wear masks in response to the reinstatement of the statewide mask requirement.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant explained to the commissioners that refusal to wear masks at the meeting could result in a lawsuit by the state and could result in the meeting being declared “illegal,” which could void any actions taken at the meeting. When Commissioner Didier declared that he would still refuse to comply, Commissioner Brad Peck left the meeting, and a number of items on the agenda were not acted upon.
As of August 25th, 1,463 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, one of the highest hospitalization rates since the start of the pandemic.
Approximately 1,100 of those cases have come in the last thirty days. Over 94% of the cases involved are from unvaccinated individuals.
Healthcare officials in Yakima, Spokane and Vancouver have each tried to prepare for a further surge in cases and have requested help from their local general public. However, the city of Vancouver has no plans, as of August 25th, to mandate vaccine requirements for their employees.
On August 24th, Governor Kate Brown announced a mask mandate for concerts, athletic events and public places that bring people together in close proximity, to take effect on Friday, August 27th.
“The Delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations are at a record high,” said Governor Brown.
“Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”
Masks are already required in all indoor public settings.
Eastern Oregon University, which had previously been considering vaccinations as not mandatory for students or employees, decided later this summer to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a valid exemption for the upcoming fall, dependent on FDA approval of at least one of the coronavirus vaccines.
With the FDA’s official approval of the Pfizer Covid vaccine on August 23rd, the deadline for being vaccinated or to have received a legitimate exemption from the university will be near the end of October.
As in Washington State, Oregon’s hospital resources are at the breaking point, especially in southwest Oregon, with over 1,100 hospitalized statewide, 93% of is available ICU beds in use and 85% of all hospitalized due to being unvaccinated.
On August 12th, Governor Brad Little redirected $30 million toward expanding COVID testing in primary and secondary schools throughout Idaho.
This is happening in response to a spike in cases of the delta variant among children and a refusal earlier this year by Republicans in the state Legislature to use $40 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for voluntary testing in public and private schools. (For a more in-depth discussion of these events, check out our first and second PNWcurrents episodes, which can be played on demand.)
Around thirteen school districts within the state of Idaho have declared mask mandates, but there are also those like the West Ada School District, which includes public schools in Meridian, Eagle, Star and western Boise, and which has received hundreds of exemption applications from parents. (Teachers and staff within the school district are not required to be vaccinated.)
One school, Rockford Elementary, part of the Snake River School District in eastern Idaho, has returned to remote learning after a week of in-person classes.
As in Washington and Oregon, Idaho’s hospital resources are at the breaking point, such that statewide care rationing is now being considered.
On August 24th, the provincial health ministry declared its intention to implement a vaccine card policy. As of September 13th, anyone who wishes to enter a sporting event, nightclub, restaurant, playhouse or movie theater will need to show government-provided proof of having received at least one COVID vaccination. As of October 24th, they will be required to be fully vaccinated. The sole exception will be for children under twelve years of age. The response from the public has been immediate, with a surge in people seeking vaccinations.
Concurrent with this new policy are new rules regarding masks in elementary and secondary schools within the province, which had last been updated in June and anticipated a situation not affected by the Delta variant of Covid. Students in fourth grade and up will be required to wear masks along with all staff, while masks will be strongly recommended but not mandatory for younger children.
Also concurrent with this new policy are new rules regarding masks and vaccination requirements within post-secondary institutions.
Previously, vaccinations were available on campuses but not required.
The new policy will require mandatory vaccinations for those living in residences on campus, but students in classrooms will only be required to wear a mask, not to be vaccinated. This is upsetting a number of instructors and professors, who are refusing to teach in-person classes.
Washington has had 544,843 cases and 6,508 attributable deaths.
The state has the forty-seventh worst infection rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
The state has the forty-fifth worst death rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
9,364,371 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 10,287,035
- Doses administered: 9,379,363 (91.18%)
Oregon has had 263,164 cases and 3,086 attributable deaths.
The state has the forty-eighth worst infection rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
The state has the forty-seventh worst death rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
6,176,587 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 6,059,845
- Doses administered: 4,907,139 (80.98%)
Idaho has had 216,061 cases and 2,316 attributable deaths.
The state has the twenty-sixth worst infection rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
The state has the forty-second worst death rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million population.
1,564,039 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 1,965,020
- Doses administered: 1,440,247 (73.29%)
British Columbia has had 161,969 cases and 1,802 attributable deaths.
3,472,991 tests have been recorded.
British Columbia has the sixth worst infection rate and the sixth worth death rate among the thirteen Canadian provinces and territories per hundred thousand population. (If it were an American state, it would be fifty-third and fifty-third, respectively, out of fifty-three.)
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the province: 7,783,000
- Doses administered: 7,369,741 (94.69%)
That does it for this installment of COVID-19 Update. Stay safe and well!