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 Monday, December 20th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus was the dominant version of the virus in the United States., accounting for 73% of new infections in the previous week.
On Tuesday, December 21st, President Biden announced new steps in response to the alarming surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the new omicron variant, and as part of fulfilling his December 2nd nine point plan. They include readying a thousand military medical professionals to help at overburdened hospitals, setting up new federal testing and vaccination sites, deploying hundreds of federal vaccinators and buying 500 million rapid tests to distribute free to the public.
In addition, the federal government will increase to one million units its purchase of the only one of three typically available monoclonal antibody treatments effective against the Omicron variant, that by GlaxoSmithKline, with 300,000 units available as of January 2022. The government also will immediately purchase half a million units of AstraZeneca’s new monoclonal antibody treatment, also effective against the Omicron variant, to be available in January 2022, with more to be purchased over the next three months.
The federal government has also pre-purchased ten million units of Pfizer’s antiviral regimen, Paxlovid, of which 265,000 units are immediately available, which was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday, December 22nd, and three million units of Merck’s antiviral regimen, molnupiravir, which is not yet approved by the FDA but which cut hospitalization and death risk by 30% in a recent trial.
Also on Wednesday, December 22nd, the Supreme Court agreed to take up disputes over the Biden administration’s nationwide vaccine-or-testing COVID-19 mandate for large businesses and a separate vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. Oral arguments will begin on Friday, January 7th, 2022.
While mandatory vaccination has been considered within the acceptable level of powers available to various entities over multiple cases, starting with Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1905, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court also struck down an eviction moratorium put forward by the Biden-Harris administration in August of this year, stating in an unsigned majority opinion that “Our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”
On Tuesday, December 14th,the University of Washington published a report regarding the resiliency of the state’s food system during the pandemic. In summary, the state’s food system was strained but did not break, and suggestions were made as to how to improve its resiliency.
On Friday, December 17th, State Senator Doug Ericksen died. Ericksen had been one of the Republicans at the forefront of the attempt to prevent vaccine mandates within Washington. He was last believed to be receiving medical treatment in Florida, to which he had been medevaced approximately around Friday, November 19th after acquiring the virus while in El Salvador.
On Monday, December 20th, the NHL’s Seattle Kraken postponed their third game this season and will cancel practice sessions during the holiday break due to COVID issues. Defensemen Adam Larsson, Carson Soucy and Jamie Oleksiak are presently in COVID-19 protocol, while three other players were just cleared.
On Tuesday, December 21st, a number of school districts in Clark County suspended high school wrestling tournaments until at least January 3rd, 2022, after health officials recommended they do so due to a number of outbreaks of the virus being found to have occurred as a result of previous tournaments.
There is still a need to test people for COVID-19 due to significant numbers of unvaccinated people. Here is the best site to keep track of where you and your loved ones can be tested if necessary.
On Monday, December 13th, the Legislature held a one-day special legislative session, passing a $215 million package which included additional emergency rental assistance for both tenants and landlords, and funds to improve the speed with which various agencies can disburse aid.
On Friday, December 17th, the Oregon Health Authority announced a five-point plan to combat the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus:
- Urge one million Oregonians to get boosters by the end of January
- Focus boosters on people who are most vulnerable to becoming hospitalized if they catch the Omicron variant
- Rapidly deliver new COVID-19 treatments, such as monoclonal antibody therapies and antiviral drugs, and expand needed testing
- Support health care workers and hospitals in the face of the coming Omicron surge with increased staffing and support local and regional coordination of hospital resources
- Connect more people to boosters, treatments and testing
If you or your loved ones need to be tested for COVID, here is were to check for test locations within the state nearest where you live.
Over the week starting December 5th, the Idaho Medical Association sent three white papers to all Idaho legislators and began to hold meetings to bring regional lawmakers together to discuss three unfounded claims.
These are that unvaccinated individuals are no more likely to spread the SARS-CoV‑2 virus than vaccinated ones; that positive antibodies provide just as much protection from the virus as a vaccine; and that natural immunity from a past infection means a person doesn’t need to get vaccinated.
On Wednesday, December 15th, the Board of Trustees at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene voted unanimously to institute a vaccination requirement and mask mandate for all staff and volunteers for its Head Start program, in order to comply with federal standards and retain over $3 million in federal funding.
A mother with at least one child at Idaho Falls’ Rocky Mountain Middle School was arraigned on Wednesday, December 22nd on charges of misdemeanor abuse of a teacher and misdemeanor providing a false identity to law enforcement stemming from multiple events in early October in violation of their mask policy.
There isn’t, unfortunately, a state-specific site for where testing for COVID is available. This site appears to be what is recommended by the state of Idaho.
In reaction to the surge in cases due to the Omicron variant within other Canadian provinces, two sets of restrictions were implemented starting Monday, December 20th. In the first set, starting on the 20th and effective through at least January 31st, 2022, indoor personal gatherings are severely restricted, masks are required and customers must remain seated at all cafes, restaurants and pubs, and all sports tournaments cancelled.
In the second set, starting Wednesday, December 22nd, indoor activities not mentioned above are severely restricted, with bars, nightclubs, lounges, adult gyms, fitness centers and dance studios closed through at least January 18th, 2022. This is on top of a recent decision to postpone non-urgent scheduled surgeries starting January 4th.
A number of COVID-19 testing centers in Metro Vancouver this week, with growing concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant, have started to see waiting times explode to over four hours on average.
Here is a focal point for testing provided by the provincial government.
Washington has had 813,056 cases and 9,803 attributable deaths.
The state has the forty-sixth worst infection rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million in population.
The state has the forty-seventh worst death rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million in population.
9,842,443 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 13,915,795
- Doses administered: 11,268,717 (80.98%)
Oregon has had 409,232 cases and 5,590 attributable deaths.
The state has the forty-ninth worst infection rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million in population.
The state has the forty-fifth worst death rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million in population.
8,512,999 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 7,953,005
- Doses administered: 6,193,364 (77.87%)
Idaho has had 315,270 cases and 4,097 attributable deaths.
The state has the nineteenth worst infection rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million in population.
The state has the thirty-fourth worst death rate among the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico per million in population.
2,394,149 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 2,741,310
- Doses administered: 1,881,077 (68.62%)
British Columbia has had 231,171 cases and 2,409 attributable deaths.
4,940,761 tests have been recorded.
British Columbia has the seventh worst infection rate and the sixth worst 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: 9,891,280
- Doses administered: 9,219,326 (93.21%)
That does it for this installment of COVID-19 Update. Stay safe and well!