18 May 2023
Can first responders still give COVID-19 tests?
COVID-19 care after the public health emergency.
The COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ended on May 11, 2023. First responder agencies are asking, “can we still provide the same COVID-19 services, like testing and vaccinations, that we did before the PHE ended?” The answer is YES.
State and federal law still covers the administration of tests and vaccinations by authorized health care workers outside of an emergency declaration.
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.”
WA COVID-19 is funded by the Washington State Department of Health. Agencies working with WA COVID-19 to provide point-of-care (POC) or over-the-counter (OTC) tests to their community are therefore responding to a request by a public health agency and are authorized under state law to provide COVID-19 testing as a service.
For those agencies that are administering POC tests as part of WA COVID-19, your local Medical Program Director should have a copy of your testing protocol on file. Distribution of OTC tests that are not administered by EMS personnel (“at-home tests”), do not require this additional documentation to be filed with the Medical Program Director.
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.
On May 9, 2023, Secretary of Health Xavier Becerra signed an amendment to the PREP Act that extends the time period of coverage for certain Covered Countermeasures and Covered Persons.
Here are the takeaways:
- 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.
- The amendment signed on May 9, 2023 (effective as of May 11, 2023), extends this coverage through December 31, 2024.
This means that Fire and EMS agencies will continue to be protected from liability under the PREP act until the end of 2024.
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Come see us in Wenatchee! WA COVID-19 at the WFC Conference.
Join us on Tuesday, May 23 from 2-3pm in the Gala room of the Wenatchee Convention Center for the session:
From Emergency to Sustainability – How Fire & EMS Agencies Are Navigating the End of the Public Health Emergency
With the end of the federal public health emergency on May 11, 2023, this session will examine the impact and sustainability of services like COVID-19 testing outside of an emergency declaration. The event will feature an interactive data walk and discussion with representatives from the Washington State Department of Health and Health Commons Project.
Meet our facilitators
Hannah Rapp Brown, MPH
Hannah Rapp Brown, MPH, is the Director of Community Programs at Health Commons Project and leads the WA COVID-19 program in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health.
Bianca Wilson, MPH
Bianca Wilson, MPH, is the COVID-19 Testing Partnerships Coordinator at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). She leads WA COVID-19, the First Responders Testing Program. In collaboration with Health Commons Project, she provides technical assistance and guidance on program implementation.
WA COVID-19 provides Fire & EMS agencies in Washington with COVID-19 testing supplies, support, and funding to support lightweight COVID-19 testing services for community members.
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Meet the latest variant. Here’s what to know about Arcturus.
Omicron XBB.1.16, also known as Arcturus, is becoming more prevalent in the United States, though it is not driving an uptick in cases.
Here’s what we know so far:
- The new variant was first identified in India and has been detected in 33 countries.
- According to the CDC, XBB.1.16 now makes up over 14% of all new cases in the United States, up from 7.2% of all cases for the week ending April 15, 2023.
- Like other omicron subvariants, XBB.1.16 is highly transmissible, but severity is yet unknown.
- According to Gavi, reports of itchy eyes and high fever are triggering alarm, but there is still nothing to indicate that XBB.1.16 will trigger an increase in hospitalisations or deaths at this stage.
- On April 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) elevated the classification of XBB.1.16 from a variant under monitoring to a variant of interest. This is less serious than a variant of concern, like delta or omicron, but the classification can quickly change as we learn more about XBB.1.16.
- The so-called Kraken variant, or XBB.1.5, is still the predominant strain in the US, making up 64% of all new cases, but Arcturus is starting to gain ground.
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.
|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.