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What’s next? Washington health department releases plan for new phase of the pandemic

UPDATED: Fri., March 18, 2022

With a line of cars behind her, Pamela Flippins is administered a COVID-19 test on Oct. 18, 2021, by EMT Liam Schaal. The state is rolling out a new plan for dealing with COVID-19 as cases drop but the virus persists in the community.   (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
With a line of cars behind her, Pamela Flippins is administered a COVID-19 test on Oct. 18, 2021, by EMT Liam Schaal. The state is rolling out a new plan for dealing with COVID-19 as cases drop but the virus persists in the community.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

The Washington Department of Health released its plan this week to guide the state’s public health response and recovery efforts in the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department is not abandoning vaccines or testing efforts.

It plans to continue to provide community organizations and schools with support and guidance.

The department also will continue updating and collecting public health data, as well as sequencing at least 10% of positive COVID samples for variants. Health care capacity and monitoring how full hospitals are remain a priority, and the department will continue to work with the Washington Medical Coordination Center to ensure patients who need to be transferred can be.

The department will maintain a systemwide capacity to have 30,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine per day, with the potential to surge to 60,000 doses per day within a week if necessary.

“Our goal will remain to be making vaccines widely available and accessible to all Washingtonians no matter where they are,” Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary, told reporters on Wednesday.

The state’s plans for the next phase of the pandemic come a month after California moved to treat the coronavirus as an endemic risk to manage and live with, rather than a crisis requiring mask mandates and business shutdowns.

So far, there have been more than 700 community-led vaccination clinics as a part of the department’s Care-a-Van clinics, which can be a part of any organization’s community event.

The state also will continue to monitor testing efforts and has the surge capacity to provide 50,000 tests per day in the next six months if it’s needed.

At-home test kits are available through the Say Yes COVID Test portal, and the department plans for that initiative to continue.

The health department also will have a supply of 7.5 million masks available to distribute to communities if necessary, and the state also keeps a 60-day supply of PPE for health care providers in the event a surge leads to supply-chain constraints.

Here’s a look at local numbers

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 56 new cases and no additional deaths on Friday.

There are 43 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District reported 234 new cases, but these are mainly backlogged cases from the omicron surge. The district has 660 additional backlogged cases to work through.

There are 29 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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