16 March 2023
Highlights from the Learning Network. Dr. Sayre and Chief Ford weigh in.
Last week, Dr. Michael Sayre and Chief Shaun Ford joined us for the first WA COVID-19 Learning Network event, “The Critical Role First Responders Play in Public Health: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”
Watch the entire presentation or jump to specific topics from the session by clicking through our index below.
Hear Dr. Sayre and Chief Ford respond to these questions:
- How did your agency make the decision to get involved in pandemic response and provide COVID-19 testing & vaccine services to your community? (Dr. Sayre)
- What was it like in the early days for a rural community? What was the pandemic response like? (Chief Ford)
- How did you leverage existing infrastructure for hazard response to address the pandemic? What worked and what didn’t? (Chief Ford)
- Can you walk us through the OTC (over-the-counter) distribution of tests that you’ve done in partnership with DOH and what the community response has been like? (Chief Ford)
- What are the key takeaways and best practices from your experience with providing testing and vaccination services? (Dr. Sayre)
- In 50 years, will we look back at the COVID-19 pandemic and say, “this was a turning point in how Fire and EMS provide services to the community?” If yes, how so? (Dr. Sayre and Chief Ford)
- What should labor and management address now prior to our next major public health emergency? (Dr. Sayre and Chief Ford)
- What about the third rail: the vaccine mandate and enforcement? (Dr. Sayre and Chief Ford)
- How do we focus on the health and well-being of our employees when we are asking more of them? (Dr. Sayre and Chief Ford)
- Why is it critical to foster partnerships with other public health agencies before the next big emergency strikes? (Deputy Chief Tyreman, Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority)
About the Learning Network
The Learning Network is a platform for First Responder agencies. It promotes learning, fosters the spread of best practices, and examines sustainability of services in partnership with the Washington state Department of Health.
The Learning Network is a free and open resource for all Washington based First Responders – both those enrolled in WA COVID-19 and those not enrolled. All are welcome to participate, learn, and share.
Mask order for healthcare settings ends soon. Here’s what to know.
The Secretary of Health Mask Order, which requires universal masking in healthcare, long-term care, and adult correctional facilities, will end on Monday, April 3, 2023.
Although this emergency countermeasure is lifting, other requirements related to infection prevention and worker protection will remain in place .
Here’s what to know:
- The Secretary of Health Mask Order will remain in place until 11:59pm on April 2.
- Local or tribal governments, facilities, and providers may choose to continue to require masks in these or other settings after April 2.
- Requirements enforced by the Department of Labor & Industries remain in effect, including that employees and contractors may choose to use face masks or other personal protective equipment on the job without employer retaliation.
- Under the state Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA), several key worker protections remain in place until the federal pandemic response declaration ends on May 11, 2023.
- DOH infection prevention and control guidance continues to recommend masks for patients, healthcare providers, and visitors in healthcare settings.
- Licensed healthcare facilities are required to have infection prevention policies and programs consistent with CDC guidance.
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Do at-home tests detect subvariants? Yes, but false negatives can occur.
Rapid antigen at-home tests have remained accurate even as new variants have evolved.
Most mutations from variant to variant affect the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter and infect a cell. But rapid antigen tests were not designed to detect spike proteins. Instead, they detect the nucleoprotein, which encapsulates the viral RNA. The nucleoprotein has remained largely the same as the virus has evolved over the past three years, which means rapid antigen tests are as accurate in detecting omicron subvariants as they were with original strains.
What about false negatives?
Rapid antigen tests require a lot of virus to be present in order to return a positive result. If people test shortly after exposure, for instance, there may not be enough virus circulating in their body to trigger a positive result. Users should be aware of how and when to test to make sure they are getting an accurate diagnosis.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Negative rapid antigen tests do not rule out a COVID-19 infection.
- If a person tests negative, they should take another rapid antigen test 48 hours later to confirm.
- If a person has known COVID-19 exposure or symptoms, they should take a third test 48 hours after the second test to confirm results.
- People should blow their noses before taking a sample. Tests detect the virus in the cells that line the inside of the nose, not the mucus.
- The best way to use at-home tests is to know their limits and follow instructions for retesting if you get a negative result.
“Rapid tests are best used as an indicator of when you’re contagious with Covid-19 rather than when you’re infected with it,” said Dr. Paul Drain, an associate professor of global health at the University of Washington.
“And in order to prevent the spread of the virus, contagiousness is what really matters.”
[New York Times/Dana G. Smith]
Is it time for a reality check on rapid COVID tests?
NPR – 19 January 2023. According to the CDC, antigen and PCR tests are both good at avoiding false positives, but PCR tests are generally more sensitive than home tests. That means antigen tests aren’t all that useful for ruling out COVID-19, but they can be valuable for confirming that cold really is COVID-19.
Do rapid tests still work?
New York Times – 25 January 2023. Experts say that rapid home tests are still a helpful tool for stopping the spread of Covid-19, but they’re not foolproof. Here are a few explanations for why you might get a false negative result — and how to increase your chances of accuracy next time.
COVID-19 in Washington. Recent trends and disease activity.
COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases are decreasing statewide.
Here are the latest COVID-19 trends.
NOTE: Due to the low transmission rates of Flu and RSV over the past several months, we have stopped reporting on these data. If you would like to continue to see these data, let us know by leaving us feedback here.
COVID-19 Trends in Washington
|Week ending September 23||Percent change from previous week||Percent change over previous 4 weeks|
|Percent of hospital admissions||2.6%||-10%||-4%|
|Percent of ER visits||2.5%||-11%||+14%|
|7-day average of hospitalizations - bed occupancy||350||+8%||+36%|
|7-day average of ICU occupancy||35||+21%||+35%|
|Daily avg.||Per 100,000*||14-day change|
*Shows 7-day rate
** Due to an increase in at home testing, many positive cases are not reported. The official data, therefore, may not capture the full picture. It is important to consider other data such as hospitalizations to help measure the impact of COVID-19 at this point in the pandemic.
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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.
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.