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Covid updates today: Covid will likely become endemic

caption: Isaiah Williams, 10, receives a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, at Seattle Children's Hospital in Seattle.
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Isaiah Williams, 10, receives a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, at Seattle Children's Hospital in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Updated news about the coronavirus pandemic in Seattle and Washington state.

According to data from King County and Washington state departments of health, as of Thursday, January 20, 2022:

  • +5,537 new cases since Wednesday in King County. That's -21% over the last seven days.
  • +68 new hospitalizations since Wednesday in King County. That's a 8% increase over the past seven days.
  • +100% increase in deaths, with five people dying every day in King County.
  • 78.2% of King County residents are fully vaccinated.
  • 10,230 Covid-19 related deaths across Washington state; 1% death rate since the beginning of the pandemic.

Inslee calls on federal government to increase states’ access to Covid vaccines, protective gear

Governor Jay Inslee was among several state leaders who testified before the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Thursday afternoon. Thursday marked two years since the novel coronavirus was first detected in Washington state.

Inslee, outlining his response to Covid over the past two years, pointed to his statewide vaccine mandate, under which roughly 20,000 state employees became vaccinated and 3% of state employees were terminated due to noncompliance.

Roughly 74% of WA residents are fully vaccinated, and 70% have initiated their vaccination series. The unvaccinated make up the majority of patients hospitalized with complications related to Covid – 80%, Inslee said.

In a written testimony addressed to the subcommittee, Inslee called on the Biden administration and Congress to keep supplies like Covid vaccines, medical grade masks, and therapeutics widely available to state governments.

“Congress and the administration are better situated than any individual state to ensure these resources stay available to everyone in the scale that the current situation demands,” Inslee said in his written testimony. “Doing this will require consistent funding and procurement mechanisms to ensure states are never again competing with each other to order lifesaving supplies like [personal protective equipment] on the open market with no support."

Liz Brazile, KUOW

Parents and caregivers of young children say they've hit pandemic rock bottom

"I had a parent tell me to f*** off last week," Cori Berg said. She directs the Hope Day School, a church-affiliated early childhood program in Dallas.

The unhappy mother took her two children out of Berg's center after each of their classrooms were closed for quarantines, saying she'd hire a nanny. Wanting to return, she emailed, called and finally showed up in the middle of the day. Just as Berg had warned her, her spots were taken.

The mother, according to Berg, threw a fit before coming back and apologizing. "She was like a toddler; she was jumping up and down."

The people who take care of and educate children under 5 years old – both parents and providers – are in a special kind of hell right now. These children are too young to be vaccinated, and it's difficult for them to wear masks consistently.

Many child care directors, like Berg, are still following 10- or 14-day quarantines, closing entire classrooms after a single positive test, which has caused nonstop disruptions given the current record numbers of Covid-19 cases. Recently, Berg's infant room had "double decker" quarantines: closed for two weeks, back for one day, closed for another two weeks.

Meanwhile, caregivers told NPR they can't get a hold of enough rapid tests, and they're struggling to apply the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's safety guidance. Center directors say they have few substitutes to cover for those out sick, and early childhood educators typically don't have union protection. Providers say they are spending out of pocket on equipment like masks and gloves.

Parents, meanwhile, are losing their tempers, losing sleep and losing jobs when the child care they pay for is canceled, over and over. About 1 in 6 parents told pollsters they had experienced either a school or a day care shutdown in the past few weeks, in a national poll from Axios and Ipsos released Jan. 11.

Read more here.

Anya Kamenetz, NPR

Washington to launch its own free Covid test website

Washington state is preparing to launch its own website for people to order free at-home Covid-19 tests.

Washington state’s website could be launched by next week. The website is a separate effort than the free test kits being offered by the federal government.

"These efforts are about making it easier for people to find tests,” said Lacy Fehrenbach who is in charge of Covid response for the state’s Department of Health. “Home tests are a key component of your medical kit at home and something we want you to have on hand before you need them. We also want to lift the burden off our emergency departments so that care can go to people who really need it."

Fehrenbach says each household will be able to order four tests, to be shipped within two weeks of ordering. Public health officials urge people with a positive test to isolate immediately, and report their home results to the department of health.

You can also notify close contacts on the WA Notify app.

— Paige Browning, KUOW

Covid cases show ‘signs of slowing’ in western Washington

After several weeks of skyrocketing Covid infections, Washington state health officials say this latest surge – which is driven by the omicron variant and has shattered pandemic records – is showing indicators of a drop-off.

King County, although still seeing a daily average of 4,575 new Covid cases, has seen a 27% decrease in new infections within the past seven days.

Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, chief science officer with the Washington State Department of Health, said he was hopeful that the wave of omicron infections was at or close to its peak in western Washington.

“It's important to remember that the data we have is likely to be a substantial undercount since many individuals who test positive at home are not reported, and therefore don't get counted in our systems,” Kwann-Gett said during a press conference Wednesday morning. “However, there do seem to be some signs of a slowing of growth in cases in western Washington.”

He added, however, that some parts of eastern Washington are in the midst of surging omicron infections.

Kwan-Gett also pointed to the ongoing strain on hospitals across the state as Covid hospitalizations rise. Although the proportion of omicron infections resulting in hospitalization appears to be lower than with other variants, the total number of hospitalizations has sharply increased because of more widespread transmission. The majority of those patients are unvaccinated.

Read more here.

Liz Brazile, KUOW

Covid will likely become endemic

There has been much speculation about if and how the pandemic will wind down. But White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci says that Covid is likely to remain in our lives for years, potentially as a less severe strain.

Fauci's comment came with the context that experts don't know the exact future of the pandemic, but they can make guesses based on history, NPR reports.

"...if you look at the history of infectious diseases, we've only eradicated one infectious disease in man, and that's smallpox. That's not going to happen with this virus," Fauci said at the recent at the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda.

"But hopefully it will be at such a low level that it doesn't disrupt our normal social, economic and other interactions."

Fauci further commented that it's unclear if the current Omicron-driven surge in cases (less deadly but far more contagious) will push the world in this direction. It is still possible that another dangerous variant could emerge.

Dyer Oxley, KUOW

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