16 February 2023
Join us for our first Learning Network. Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington.
Save the Date: Thursday, March 9, 2023
“The Critical Role First Responders play in Public Health: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency”
In Washington, First Responders – like Fire & EMS agencies – have worked in close partnership with public health agencies to tackle complex public health emergencies – like Cardiac Events, The Opioid Epidemic and most recently – the COVID-19 Pandemic.
During the Pandemic, many Fire & EMS agencies in Washington took the lead in local emergency response and coordinated with public health to administer millions of COVID-19 tests and thousands of vaccinations.
Although the emergency proclamations for COVID-19 have ended, the partnerships, the learnings, and the work continues.
Join us on Thursday, March 9th to hear leaders in EMS and Public Health share lessons learned during the pandemic, hear from agencies improving access to COVID-19 testing in their community, and explore how Fire & EMS and public health can continue to impact COVID-19 response.
More information and registration link coming soon.
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.
Federal emergency funding is ending. What that means for COVID testing in Washington State.
The Federal government’s coronavirus public health emergencies will expire in May 2023. Since the pandemic began, millions of Americans have received free COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines as a result of the emergency declarations. The end of the emergency will result in complex changes to the cost and accessibility of COVID care across the US.
In Washington state, most programs that provide equitable access to testing and testing services will continue even after the federal emergency proclamations have ended.
Here’s what we know:
- The Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH) is expected to provide testing supplies and services for the following groups beyond May 2023:
- Community Based Testing Sites and high-vulnerability communities via Local Health Jurisdictions and Tribal Partners.
- Fire/EMS agencies via the WA COVID-19 program, homeless shelters, independent pharmacies, and agricultural workers in coordination with local/state agency partners.
- K-12 schools via the Learn to Return school testing program.
- General public via the Say Yes! COVID Test program through which Washingtonians can order free rapid antigen tests.
- Federally implemented testing access via ICATT (Increasing Community Access to Testing) pharmacy testing, LTS Testing Kiosks, and federally-qualified food bank networks is also expected to continue beyond May 2023.
Here’s what we don’t know:
- We don’t know how long these testing programs will continue after the federal emergency proclamations have ended in May. We will provide updates via the WA COVID-19 newsletter in the coming months.
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Updated COVID-19 Guidance. What to do after a positive or negative self-test.
Although federal COVID-19 emergency funding ends in May, the pandemic itself is not over. As of February 7, 2023, there are still approximately 450 COVID-19 deaths daily in the United States. It remains critically important that people who are exposed to COVID-19, or think they have been exposed, help prevent the spread of the virus to others.
On February 8, 2023, DOH released updated guidance for those potentially exposed to COVID-19.
Here’s what you need to know:
Testing children under two
At this time, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved or authorized any at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen test for use in children under 2 years of age. However, according to the WA DOH, at-home rapid antigen tests may be safely used in children under 2 years of age for purposes of post-exposure, isolation, and symptomatic testing. It is recommended that parents or guardians deciding to test children under 2 years of age administer the at-home rapid antigen test themselves.
What should a person do if they test POSITIVE with an at-home test?
- Refer to DOH’s What to do if you test positive for COVID-19
- Tell their healthcare provider about the positive result and keep in touch as the illness progresses
- If they have questions and cannot access a healthcare provider, they can call the WA DOH Hotline at 1-800-525-0127
- Speak to their health care provider to determine eligibility for COVID-19 therapeutics (pre-exposure prophylaxis), monoclonal antibodies or oral antivirals).
- Early intervention with COVID-19 therapeutics can reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization for people with COVID-19 who are at high risk, including those ages 50 years or more, people who are unvaccinated or not up to date, and children and adults with certain medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system.
- Don’t delay: Treatment must be started within days after a patient first develops symptoms to be effective.
- Tell close contacts that they have been exposed to COVID-19 and send: What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19
What should a person do if they test NEGATIVE with an at-home test?
- A negative result from an at-home test means that COVID-19 was not detected by the test at that time. A person with COVID-19 can test negative using an at-home test if there is only a small amount of the virus in their system at that time
- If a person believes they have COVID-19, but tests negative, serial testing is recommended.
- Serial testing is when a person tests multiple times, such as every few days so that they detect COVID-19 more quickly and reduce the spread of infection.
- Self-collection kits often come with a second test and are designed to be used in a series.
- If a person’s first self-test is negative, but they have symptoms of COVID-19 or a high likelihood of infection, a person should consider re-testing every 24-48 hours for 5 days after the onset of symptoms
- If a person does not have symptoms but was exposed to COVID-19, they should consider retesting 24-48 hours after the second negative test, for a total of at least 3 tests.
- If a person does not have adequate resources to test 3 times with an antigen test, it’s ok to test less based on resources and level of risk that they pose to others
- If repeat testing results are negative but a person remains concerned that they could have COVID-19, they may consider getting a laboratory PCR test, or calling their health care provider.
Updated COVID-19 Decision Trees. What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed.
The Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Decision Trees for the General Public have been updated to reflect WA DOH guidance for people who have COVID-19 symptoms and people who have been exposed to COVID-19. The decision trees are for the general public and non-health care settings, including schools and child care settings.
Updated decision trees: What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms & What to do if you have been exposed to COVID-19
Additional information is available in these helpful DOH Fact Sheets:
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The WA COVID-19 toolbox is live! Get new and updated resources for your testing program.
The WA COVID-19 toolbox is loaded with new and updated resources to help you and your team navigate the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 testing. The toolbox includes a range of useful materials – from testing resources and patient handouts, to instructional videos, toolkits, grant information, and Learning Network videos (coming soon!).
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COVID-19, Flu, and RSV are all trending down. Here are the latest numbers.
The Kraken variant, XBB.1.5, increased its share of new US cases. However, it has not caused a surge in the overall number of cases nationally or within Washington State.
Here’s what we know about XBB.1.5 at this point in the year.
- As of February 14, 2023, the XBB.1.5 variant makes up 75% of all new cases in the US, followed by BQ.1.1 (15%), BQ.1 (5%) and XBB (2%).
According to the World Health Organization, there is “moderate-strength evidence for increased risk of transmission and immune escape,” but “no early signals of increases in severity have been observed.”
Hospitalizations and cases are trending down. Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for Washington state.
|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.
You can find your community’s COVID-19 level using the CDC’s COVID-19 County Check widget.
After peaking early in the season, flu activity has been slowing down in Washington over the past several weeks. Here are the most recent trends:
- According to the CDC, flu-like illness activity in Washington state is currently MINIMAL.
- As of February 4th, there have been a total of 240 lab-confirmed flu deaths (4 children, 236 adults) this season in Washington state (an increase of 72 deaths since January 14). In comparison, there were a total of 601 flu deaths over the past 8 years combined at this point in the season.
In November 2022, RSV hospitalizations skyrocketed to +313% compared to the previous year. Since then, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in hospitalization, down 86% in February 2023 compared to 2022.
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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.
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.