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.
Both President Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been cautious to consider recommending any relaxation or conclusion to recommendations to use masks, but a number of states with strict measures will be relaxing their rules. For example, New York will be lifting its mask mandate on Thursday, February 10th, California has announced that it will allow to expire its indoor mask mandate as of Tuesday, February 15th, and Illinois will be lifting its indoor mask mandate on Monday, February 28th.
Other states have or will be implementing similar measures, but most efforts are specific in scope and allow for county and local authorities within their states to maintain their own existing mandates if they so wish.
In most cases, schools will not yet be effected, but come between the last week in February and the middle of March, they may be next allowed to have mask requirements fall or become optional in one form or another.
Whether this is a reasonable response to the omicron outbreak’s progress remains to be seen, but here is a reasonable place to assess and prepare.
On Wednesday, February 9th, Governor Jay Inslee announced that a lifting of the statewide outdoor mask mandate may take place starting Friday, February 18th, if the present decline in the rate at which the number of omicron cases occur continues its significant descent.
Removing the indoor mask mandate could be considered, if the outdoor mask mandate is lifted, as early as Friday, February 25th.
This follows Superintendent of Public Schools Instruction Chris Reykdal declaring in an interview on Tuesday, February 7th, that he would be recommending to the Governor that masks be made optional in schools as the recent boom in coronavirus cases starts to subside across Washington State.
Reykdal also stated that his office would monitor cases and recommend re-imposition of indoor mask mandates if a new variant of post-omicron COVID-19 would lead to a sharp rise in cases.
Reykdal clarified his comments through an official statement immediately after Governor Inslee’s press conference on the 9th.
“As part of my recommendation to the Department of Health and the Governor, I expect schools will continue to have rapid tests on-site to quickly assess symptomatic students, staff, and close contacts. Those who test positive will continue to isolate and quarantine until their symptoms subside.
Current laws empower local health officials to assess health and safety risks and determine local strategies. Given the varied vaccination rates and adherence to other mitigation strategies across the regions in our state, it is time to return decision-making to local health officials. In some cases, local health officials may require temporary returns to masking or other mitigation strategies if cases spike or if a new variant poses elevated risks.”
On Tuesday, February 7th, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it would likely lift its indoor mask mandate, including for schools, as of Thursday, March 31st. This likely in part due a near one third decrease in cases since the state hit its peak just over a week ago.
Due to a misinterpretation of rules regarding federal funds allocation for rent relief for those most at risk of eviction, Idaho has lost access to $22 million in funds, primarily within the greater Boise area.
State Representative Karey Hanks is sponsoring a bill, House Bill 514, that would prohibit cities, counties, health districts and local school boards from requiring face masks or similar covering, would prevent any officer of the state from requiring masks, and any violation of the prohibition would result in terminating any related emergency order or public health order in place.
BC Provincial Health will be expanding its vaccination mandate to all health practitioners regulated by the province’s B.C.‘s health-care medical schools, including dentists and chiropractors, as of Thursday, March 24th.
The anti-vaccine mandate protests in Ottawa have spread to Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey, but so far their impact has not been significant. There were enough concerns, however, for healthcare workers in Vancouver to be told, for their safety, to not wear their scrubs or job credentials immediately outside their places of employment just before the protests in Vancouver began.
Washington has had 1,382,889 cases and 11,139 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.
10,968,200 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 13,915,795
- Doses administered: 11,268,717 (80.98%)
Oregon has had 665,486 cases and 6,265 attributable deaths.
The state has the fiftieth 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.
10,077,174 tests have been recorded.
- Doses of vaccine distributed to the state: 7,953,005
- Doses administered: 6,193,364 (77.87%)
Idaho has had 395,366 cases and 4,497 attributable deaths.
The state has the thirty-eighth 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.
2,707,996 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 eighth 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: 12,097,098
- Doses administered: 10,993,912 (90.88%)
That does it for this installment of COVID-19 Update. Stay safe and well!