Healthcare

COVID-19 Update: Vaccine mandates ramp up as nation feels the strain from delta variant

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

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.

Oregon

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.

Idaho

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.

British Colum­bia

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.

The hard, cold numbers (plus vaccinations)

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!

Rich Erwin

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