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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: Linsey Jones, a medical assistant working at a drive-up Covid-19 testing clinic, wears an N95 mask, Jan. 4, 2022, in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle.
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Linsey Jones, a medical assistant working at a drive-up Covid-19 testing clinic, wears an N95 mask, Jan. 4, 2022, in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle.
Credit: Ted S. Warren / AP

Pandemic updates: National Guard begins arriving at Washington hospitals

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:

  • +4,136 new cases since Thursday in King County. That's -29% over the last seven days.
  • +56 new hospitalizations since Wednesday in King County. That's a 6% increase over the past seven days.
  • +71% increase in deaths, with five people dying every day in King County.
  • 74.2% of King County residents are fully vaccinated.
  • 10,339 Covid-19 related deaths across Washington state; 1% death rate since the beginning of the pandemic.

Washington state offers free at-home Covid tests

Starting Friday, Washingtonians can order free, at-home Covid tests online from the state Department of Health.

Each household in Washington is eligible to receive one kit of the rapid antigen tests, available in packs of four to five tests. Officials say residents who order them can expect to receive them within two weeks.

The tests, which can be ordered via the website, are currently in limited supply.

While state officials have articulated a commitment to distributing 3 million tests to Washingtonians for home use, they say they only have approximately 650,000 of them to ship at the moment. They're encouraging people to only order the tests if they don't already have some on hand.

"If you look at your medicine cabinet right now you've got five or 10 or... you feel you don't need them or you can buy them somewhere, you can go to the federal website, you can get it from your insurance, please be kind and do that," said Dr. Umair Shah, the state health secretary during a media briefing Friday morning.

People with positive home Covid test results can report them to the Washington State Department of Health using the state's smartphone-based WA Notify system.

Officials say an additional 1 million tests will go to community testing sites, while another 1 million tests are slated to go to schools around the state.

Liz Brazile, KUOW

Vaccinated, breakthrough case, infection: Which has strongest immune response?

New research out of the University of Washington has found what produces the greatest immune response to Covid.

In short, the higher the number of exposures leads to enhanced "quality of antibody responses." Three situations produced the greatest defense against the coronavirus, including variants:

  • People who became ill with Covid and then were vaccinated.
  • Breakthrough infections (fully vaccinated and then became ill with Covid).
  • People who received two mRNA doses of vaccine and also a booster shot.

People who received just two doses of an mRNA vaccine (currently considered "fully vaccinated") or people who came down with Covid and were not later vaccinated did not hold up as well against the disease.

The UW study found: "Those who had completed a three-vaccination protocol, those who had been vaccinated after recovering from Covid-19, and those with a breakthrough infection after vaccination launched almost comparable neutralizing antibody responses, in terms of magnitude and breadth."

— Dyer Oxley, KUOW

CDC study: mRNA booster shots 90% effective keeping folks out of hospital

A study released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that people who have had a third dose of an mRNA Covid vaccine are far more likely to stay out of the hospital.

The study found that vaccine effectiveness stood up well to the delta and omicron variants when patients received a booster shot (third shot) of an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna — about 90% effective.

Having just two shots of the mRNA vaccine was about 57% effective six months after the second dose.

Researchers looked into 88,000 patients in 10 states between December and January.

CNN further reports that additional studies indicate that the booster shots appear to be effective at preventing people from becoming ill with omicron, despite the variant's ability to evade immunity. People with booster shots were 66% less likely to become ill with omicron.

The CDC recommends all people 12 and older get an mRNA booster shot five months after a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, or two months after a Johnson & Johnson shot.

— Dyer Oxley, KUOW

Inslee clashes with Congress member

It's been two years since the CDC confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States, right here in Washington. Gov. Jay Inslee marked Thursday's anniversary by testifying before the U.S. Congress.

Inslee said that pandemic measures taken in Washington — public restrictions, widespread mask wearing — made a big difference.

"They worked big time," Inslee said. "We believe that we've saved perhaps 17,000 lives because of these policies."

But Inslee got pushback. Republican Congressmember Jim Jordan of Ohio doubted such restrictions and asked if masks and lockdowns really worked. He questioned why people were still dying despite the measures, and further implied people cannot trust the government.

More than 10,000 people have passed away from Covid in Washington state since the start of the pandemic in 2020. A total of 31,245 people have died in Ohio.

"And that’s what the Republican Party put up as their spokesperson," Inslee responded. "We need the Republican Party to take some responsibility here and not put their members, who are spreading this dangerous filth, to America."

Inslee is calling on the feds to provide more job training for nurses and make it easier for states to acquire personal protective equipment.

— Paige Browning, KUOW

National Guard arriving at Washington hospitals to help out

Some Washington National Guard members have now been deployed to hospitals around the state, ready to help with the current Covid surge.

RELATED: Starting with the pandemic, Washington National Guard face unprecedented year

Gov. Inslee recently called for 100 guard members to be sent in to help out as hospital capacity maxes out in many places. All members will be in place at hospitals by Monday. They will handle non-clinical duties.

They are being sent to: Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett; Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital in Yakima; Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee; and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital in Spokane.

The troops will also set up Covid testing sites outside of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, and the Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

— Angela King

New Covid testing site opens at Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe

A new mass Covid testing site is opening up at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, Wash. Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It will be open daily, starting from 8:30 a.m. People can make appointments to get a test through January 25. Additional days will be added on a rolling basis.

Call the Snohomish Health District or check its website to find out how to make an appointment. Additional testing information for the area can be found here.

The county's chief health officer says the county's testing capacity has been maxed out with nearly 12,000 new Covid cases reported there last week alone.

“This site will be able to do 1,000 tests per day, which brings much needed capacity for our community,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “We know this will help ease the crunch being felt by people in need who have been having a hard time finding testing during the omicron surge.”

The new testing site is being opened in partnership with the Snohomish Health District, Washington State Department of Health, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

— Angela King

Student sick out in Edmonds School District

Some students in the Edmonds School District are planning to hold a sick out Friday, similar to the one held by students at Seattle's Franklin High School last week. MyEdmonds reports that students say the school district isn't doing enough to protect them from Covid.

The students also started an online petition calling on the district to provide them with N95 or KN95 masks, more access to testing, and better communication when it comes Covid case numbers in schools. As of Friday morning, the petition had 75 online signatures.

The petition argues: "If the Edmonds School District continues to allow the virus to spread and only closes schools once it becomes physically impossible to keep them open, they are facilitating the illness and the spread of that illness. By keeping schools open our district is facilitating the possibility of student and family deaths."

They also want the district to switch to remote learning until its safe to return to in-person classes.

— Angela King

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