November 29, 2021

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Coronavirus in Gig Harbor: The Week In Review

GIG HARBOR, WA — A post-holidays surge in coronavirus transmissions has health officials urging Washington to keep following COVID-19 safety guidelines a little longer, until the state can increase vaccine distribution.

And vaccine distribution will be ramping up sooner, rather than later, according to health care officials. At the state’s weekly COVID-19 situation briefing Wednesday, Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah announced he has ordered his department to speed up vaccinations, with the goal of entering the next phase of vaccine distribution sometime in the next few days.

For now, the state remains in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution, meaning the vaccine is only available for first responders, workers in health care settings, and residents of long-term care facilities.

But health officials promise, the state will shortly be moving into Phase 1B1, which allows for vaccinations for anyone 70 years old or older, or those 50 years old or older and live in multigenerational households.

(Washington State Department of Health)
(Washington State Department of Health)

Though vaccine distribution is poised to increase over the coming months, that doesn’t mean everyone can relax, warn health officials. After several weeks of decline, daily case counts appear to be on the rise once again, particularly in Snohomish, King, Pierce and Yakima counties.

Because of those high daily case counts, Washington won’t be lifting pandemic restrictions any time soon: The Washington State Department of Health confirmed Friday that all 8 regions will remain in Phase 1 of the Healthy Washington plan until at least Monday, Jan. 25.

Under the Healthy Washington program, a region can only move forward if it meets four metrics:

  • A 10 percent decline in COVID-19 case rates over the past two weeks

  • A 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission over the past two weeks

  • An ICU occupancy under 90 percent

  • Test positivity of less than 10 percent

Unlike the Safe Start plan, Healthy Washington also allows regions to be downgraded back into earlier phases if transmission begins to rise again: any county that fails three of those four metrics will be pushed back into the previous phase.

While Pierce County remains at a higher transmission rate than the state at large, there have been a few promising developments locally. The first came mid-week, when the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department released the preliminary results of a school COVID-19 testing project. They say the program, which had the students and staff of three county school districts take COVID-19 tests weekly through the month of December, appears to have been a success, and may ultimately help other students get back into the classroom quicker.

The other big update came from the Pierce County Council Friday, when they announced new plans for three mass vaccination sites. The county says that, based on census data and early planning results, their vaccination sites could administer 4,600 vaccines a day, or 700,000 doses of the vaccine over 7 months. The council will debate the vaccination site proposal at their upcoming meeting on Jan. 19.

In the Gig Harbor area, there has now been a total 942 COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths since the pandemic began last spring.

Catch up on this week’s coronavirus headlines:

Lawmakers push for early vaccinations for WA teachers

Washington’s legislative education committee is calling on state leaders to reconsider the current vaccination plan to prioritize teachers. Under the current distribution model, most teachers would not qualify to receive the vaccine until April.

Educators say, that’s just too late. A letter signed Monday by education committee members reads in part:

“Their school districts are expecting many, if not all grade levels, to soon be returning to the classroom to be potentially interacting with hundreds of students per day. We acknowledge the need to prioritize vaccines for older Washingtonians and strongly believe that educators should be equally prioritized with older Washingtonians, especially considering the essential service they provide.”

The letter goes on to ask Gov. Inslee and Secretary Shah to revise Phase 1B to include all school employees. If successful, that would mean teachers could be vaccinated as early as February.

Read more: Legislators Urge Earlier Vaccinations For Washington’s Teachers

Washingtonians more likely to take COVID-19 vaccine

Adults in Washington are some of the most likely to accept the coronavirus vaccine, according to a new study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The study found that over half of WA adults would willingly take the vaccine, and less than a quarter would refuse. The remainder said they were unsure whether they would accept vaccination or not.

While that percentage is higher than most other states, it isn’t ideal either. State and federal health officials say it would take about 70 percent vaccination for the population to gain herd immunity to the virus.

According to IHME’s study, across the country just 52 percent of Americans were willing to take the vaccine. About 25 percent said they were unsure if they wanted to be vaccinated or not, and 23 percent said they would not be receiving the vaccine.

Read more: Washington Among States Most Willing To Accept COVID-19 Vaccine

ESD begins processing $300 pandemic relief payments

Washington State’s Employment Security Department says they have begun processing Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, meaning that unemployment recipients should begin seeing an extra $300 on their weekly benefits.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments come as part of the federal stimulus package finalized in late December. It provides an extra $300 to unemployment benefits for up to 11 weeks. The ESD says that includes payments covering the weeks ending Jan. and Jan 9. and that applicants who did receive benefits for those weeks should see back payments added to their account sometime within the next two to three days.

Read more: ESD Begins Adding $300 Pandemic Relief To Unemployment Benefits

DOH begins texting after positive COVID-19 tests

The Washington State Department of Health is now sending text messages to anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus.

The DOH says the move is part of their attempts to improve WA Notify, the state’s COVID-19 exposure notification app. Under the new program, they’ll send a text to a patient within 24 hours of receiving a positive test result. The text will include a verification code, which the user will be prompted to enter into WA Notify. The app will then alert everyone that the patient has recently been in close contact with, that they may have been exposed to the virus.

Anyone who receives the text but isn’t signed up for WA Notify can simply ignore it, say DOH leaders. But they do encourage residents to sign up for WA Notify if they can — 1.66 million Washingtonians have signed up for the app since its launch in late November.

Read more: WA DOH Will Now Text After Positive COVID-19 Tests

Total coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths by county:

Editors note: Patch is now updating these totals on a weekly, rather than daily, basis. Readers should keep in mind that the increases below represent infections, hospitalizations and deaths over a seven-day period.

Also note that the totals below include 12,267 probable cases.


Confirmed Cases




1,710 (+35)


17 (+1)


1,032 (+14)

53 (+5)

25 (+7)


13,331 (+749)

691 (+33)

178 (+11)


5,360 (+197)

231 (+12)

42 (+4)


828 (+58)

30 (+3)



15,873 (+1,027)

836 (+52)

165 (+6)


93 (+4)




3,076 (+480)

147 (+11)

34 (+1)


2,873 (+99)

116 (+8)

17 (+2)


193 (+7)

12 (+1)

4 (+2)


9,622 (+346)

479 (+13)

87 (+1)


102 (+4)


4 (+2)


6,645 (+332)

311 (+18)

52 (+2)

Grays Harbor

2,661 (+134)




1,074 (+62)

67 (+4)



267 (+15)

23 (+1)



72,253 (+4,321)

4,385 (+223)

1,105 (+55)


4,641 (+754)

235 (+12)

52 (+3)


1,943 (+96)

52 (+3)



557 (+28)

26 (+4)



2,919 (+242)

180 (+15)



291 (+17)

17 (+2)



1,920 (+170)

60 (+4)



1,922 (+71)

117 (+6)



592 (+22)

22 (+2)

8 (+2)

Pend Oreille

519 (+25)

35 (+2)



30,509 (+2,082)

2,162 (+116)

415 (+28)

San Juan

91 (+8)

5 (+1)



3,732 (+206)

214 (+11)

46 (+3)


222 (+13)

9 (+2)



25,869 (+1,487)

1,725 (+63)

442 (+23)


30,266 (+2,019)

1,593 (+114)

415 (+36)


1,341 (+81)

77 (+8)

19 (+1)


5,664 (+403)

345 (+26)

60 (+2)


61 (+5)

2 (+1)


Walla Walla

4,039 (+340)

200 (+3)

44 (+4)


4,667 (+601)

231 (+30)



2,983 (+84)

78 (+4)

35 (+2)



1,163 (+36)

345 (+11)


1,439 (-123)

17 (+2)



285,970 (+17,363)

16,370 (+812)

3,903 (+204)

The above numbers are provided by the state Department of Health, and some numbers differ from the totals provided separately by county health agencies.

This article originally appeared on the Gig Harbor Patch

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