Vaccines offer hope on anniversary of 1st COVID case

Last week marked the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was found in Snohomish County, putting Washington in the national spotlight.

Since that time, the state has had over 288,000 confirmed cases and 4,148 deaths. In Kitsap County, there have been 4,765 cases with 54 deaths. Epidemiological curves have risen, fallen and flattened. The only certainty for residents, businesses, workers and governments has been uncertainty.

But on the day after the one year anniversary, state officials are now focused on ramping up distribution of the two vaccines, indicating there is light at the end of this very long tunnel.

“It has been a long year, with, unfortunately many lives lost, and so many people impacted,” said state health secretary Umair A. Shah, who came to Washington this month after serving as director of health in Harris County, Texas.

Speaking of vaccines, as of Jan. 24, the state had distributed 500,105 doses — that number includes both first and second doses — and had received 844,575 doses. And more are on the way; the state expects over 90,000 first doses and 140,000 second doses from the federal government this week, said Michele Roberts, the leader of planning and distribution for the state Department of Health.

The number of vaccines administered each day in Washington has risen slowly over the past weeks. Kitsap County officials have acknowledged that supply has yet to meet demand locally, and according to the DOH, 18,547 vaccine doses had been given here, but the state hopes to build up its infrastructure to give out 45,000 doses per day. The state’s current seven-day average is 23,964 per day.

“We need to receive more than 300,000 per week,” Roberts said. “We are not getting that many yet, but we are working hard to build capacity to reach that goal.”

The state has opened regional mass vaccination locations in Wenatchee, the Tri-Cities, Spokane and Ridgefield. It also plans to bolster efforts in populous Snohomish, Pierce and King counties that could help the state reach administering 100,000 doses per day.

Shah expressed hope that change in leadership at the federal level combined with the recently announced public-private partnerships with corporations and local health care districts would propel the state forward and get “more people vaccinated faster” because “that’s what we all want.”

The DOH website has also added to its COVID-19 dashboard with an updated number of vaccines administered each day at the state and county levels to help folks track Washington’s progress.

“We do believe with the aggressive steps we’re taking … that we are going to continue to make progress,” Shah said.

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