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.

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

COVID-19 Update: Governments ramp up testing as omicron looms over holiday season

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.

United States

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.”

Wash­ing­ton

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.

Oregon

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.

Idaho

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.

British Colum­bia

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.

The hard, cold numbers (plus vaccinations)

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!

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