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Newsletter

15 December 2022

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Policy

Emergency proclamations have ended. What that means for Fire Departments and EMS Agencies.

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Trends

COVID-19, flu, and RSV. State of the “tripledemic.”

Mass testing for Covid-19 / SARS-CoV-2 infection concept: Several rapid antigen test kits. One kit in the middle showing a positive result

Supplies

Can rapid tests be used past expiration? Here’s a quick guide.

A photo of the Capitol of Olympia, Washington, taken at an upwards angle with a blue sky in the background

Emergency proclamations have ended. What that means for Fire Departments and EMS Agencies.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise yet again, but COVID-19 emergency proclamations expired in October. First responder agencies are asking, “can we still provide the same COVID-19 services, like testing and vaccinations, that we did during the state of emergency?” The answer is YES.

State and federal law covers the administration of tests and vaccinations by authorized  health care workers outside of a state of emergency.

Reach out to us to discuss your ongoing COVID-19 response before the winter surge peaks this year. We can provide free COVID-19 tests and funding to support your COVID-19 response strategy. 

Continue reading to learn more about these policies: 

At the state level

In June 2022, Governor Inslee signed into law House Bill 1893 – 2021-22 which allows “emergency medical technicians to provide medical evaluation, testing, and vaccines outside of an emergency in response to a public health agency request.”

At the federal level

The PREP Act (or Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act) protects health care workers from legal liability for administering medical countermeasures for COVID-19, including tests, vaccines, and other drugs.

At the state level

In June 2022, Governor Inslee signed into law House Bill 1893 – 2021-22 which allows “emergency medical technicians to provide medical evaluation, testing, and vaccines outside of an emergency in response to a public health agency request.”

At the federal level

The PREP Act (or Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act) protects health care workers from legal liability for administering medical countermeasures for COVID-19, including tests, vaccines, and other drugs.

  Here’s the fine print: 

  • The PREP Act authorizes immunity from legal liability for the “manufacture, testing, development, distribution, administration, and use” of covered countermeasures. 
  • Covered countermeasures include “any antiviral, any other drug, any biologic, any diagnostic, any other device, or any vaccine, used to treat, diagnose, cure, prevent, or mitigate COVID-19.” 
  • The immunity applies to all covered persons as defined in the PREP Act, including any person authorized by state and local public health agencies (or an EUA) to “prescribe, administer, deliver, distribute or dispense” covered countermeasures. 
  • PREP Act immunity is applied “without geographic limitation” beginning on February 4, 2020, and ending as late as October 1, 2025. 

 

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COVID-19, flu, and RSV. State of the “tripledemic.”

COVID-19 and flu cases are on the rise heading into the holiday season. Hospitalization rates for RSV, and even more so for flu, are the worst they’ve been in years. Here is where things stand for the three respiratory diseases that are circulating. 

COVID-19

Cases and hospitalizations have jumped after Thanksgiving, though so far rates remain below peaks in summer 2022. 

  • The new COVID-19 bivalent booster has been shown to be effective against omicron variants that are driving new cases and hospitalizations, but only 25% of Washingtonians have received the booster as of Thursday, December 8th. 

FLU

  • In the US, flu hospitalizations are the highest they’ve been in ten years at this point in the season at 26 per 100k population.

  • According to the CDC, flu-like illness activity in Washington state is currently VERY HIGH 

RSV

  • RSV hospitalization rates nationwide are much higher than previous years at this point in the season (30.4 per 100k population), according to CDC surveillance network data 

Related: The FDA clears updated COVID-19 vaccines for kids under age 5

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Mass testing for Covid-19 / SARS-CoV-2 infection concept: Several rapid antigen test kits. One kit in the middle showing a positive result

Can rapid tests be used past expiration? Here’s a quick guide.

The Washington State Department of Health has approved the use of all rapid antigen COVID-19 tests past expiration if:  

  • The built-in quality controls (QC) are intact and correct results are obtained from QC tests. 
  • On rapid antigen tests, a QC test is making sure the control line – the line that shows up next to the “C” on the test cartridge – shows up when the specimen is added. 

These tests also regularly receive shelf-life extensions from the FDA, which monitors test performance data to inform expiration date extensions. 

This one-page information sheet has expiration details by test type, as well as helpful information on quality controls to ensure the test is working properly.

Questions? Reach out to us at firstresponders@healthcommonsproject.org. 

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Mass testing for Covid-19 / SARS-CoV-2 infection concept: Several rapid antigen test kits. One kit in the middle showing a positive result

So what do you think?

Be honest. ?

We want this newsletter to be a quick, helpful go-to for you and your team. Let us know how we can do better. Send us your ideas and wish list here. 

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We provide resources and one-to-one technical assistance to help you educate community members on why testing matters and how they can test themselves for COVID-19. Knowing when to isolate, especially when other vulnerable individuals may be involved, is critical to protecting community health.

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The Washington State Department of Health and Heath Commons periodically reviews the contents of WACOVID19.org to keep information content of WACOVID19.org as up to date as possible during guidance changes and program expansion. The content of WACOVID19.org does not necessarily represent the official views of WA State Department of Health.

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