The MVP.
The MVP.

I have been informed that the National Football League will hold the Super Bowl this Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs, whose team name has somehow survived into 2021, will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As I am from the state of Missouri, duty binds me to root for Kansas City. But no matter which team you're rooting for, both teams represent states with higher seven-day COVID-19 case averages than Washington.

Sponsored

In order to keep it that way, at a press conference today representatives from the Department of Health offered a few tips for watching the big game. Tip #1: Only party with those who already live in your household. If you live alone, this means you must eat wings with your own ghosts.

For the blithe death merchants who plan to host or to attend a Super Bowl house party anyway, DOH recommends you watch the game outside. For the real grim motherfuckers who think their God or their masculinity or their particular charm will protect them from contracting and/or spreading the virus, and who will use those feelings to justify inviting friends indoors to eat stuff and scream at the television, the DOH suggests you bring your own snacks, keep your distance, keep the windows open, and wear a mask.

Washington's health department heads also provided a brief update on the state's vaccine rollout and some info on the new variant. Here's a quick rundown:

• Washington's epidemiologist for communicable diseases Dr. Scott Lindquist said the state has so far detected five cases of B.1.1.7, the COVID-19 variant first described in the UK and first detected in King County last week. Lindquist said the DOH plans to "step up our game to do surveillance," and set a goal of sequencing "5% of all positive COVID-19 tests" to get a better idea of what variants are out there. To that end, Washington's Public Health Laboratories will start genotyping "in two weeks," which should help boost the University of Washington's efforts.

• As of Feb 1, Washington has given 773,000 shots of the first dose, which represents a little over 66% of the doses the federal government has given to the state. Acting assistant secretary Michele Roberts said the state "significantly" sped up vaccinations in the last two weeks, noting that we're now averaging about 28,000 vaccinations a day, whereas two weeks ago we were averaging 14,000 vaccinations a day. She attributed the greater efficiency in part to new mass vaccination sites the state stood up last week. So far, over 15,800 people have gotten their first shots at those sites.

• Those numbers sound pretty good, but earlier this week the DOH pushed back the vaccine timeline for younger and less vulnerable people by a season in order to be more "realistic" about how long it will take them to vaccinate the older people in these earlier groups. Secretary Roberts said the state's decision to include people 65 and up in the current vaccine eligibility tier suddenly added 500,000 people to the rosters, bringing the total up to 1.7 million. As I mentioned earlier, in our third week of vaccinating in these aged-based tiers, we've only administered 773,000 doses of a two-dose vaccine, which suggests we might have some catching up to do if we want to vaccinate this group by March, which is when the new variant might become dominant.

Support The Stranger

• Though last week Governor Inslee said he had looked at those projections and promised "to get those people vaccinated before this variant becomes dominant," referring to Washingtonians over 65, a spokesperson for the DOH said, "Right now we don't have a percentage or breakdown of eligible people who've received the vaccine or forecasts for the future."

• Washington Health Secretary Umair Shah said a need to strike "a good balance" between economic and public health interests drove the decision to make structural changes to loosen restrictions mere weeks into the rollout of Gov. Inslee's new reopening plan and despite concerns about a new and more virulent strain of COVID appearing in Washington. Shah noted that regions still need to hit three of four metrics for two-week periods, so if shit goes south in Phase 2 regions then they'll have to move back to Phase 1. "When you dial up very quickly or dial down really quickly, there are real challenges on the operations side but also on the community psyche. We think it’s a good balance," he said.

• Roberts said a shortage of vaccines coming from the federal government still slows and complicates the state's efforts to get shots in arms, though I think it's worth noting that private companies are producing these vaccines and private hospitals are still mostly administering them. Anyhow, over 600 (out of a little over 1,000) health care facilities statewide requested over 358,000 doses this week, but the feds only sent a little over 100,000 first doses and 59,000 second doses, which means we're still only getting 1/3 of the vaccines we're requesting. That said, the state had to reduce allocations to 39 health care providers because they didn't meet Inslee's 95% allocation rule, which requires health care providers to administer 95% of the doses they get within a week or else receive less supply the next week. This week the state sent 19% of the vaccine supply to community health centers, 23% to hospitals, 35% to state-run and county-run mass vaccination sites, and 3% to tribes and Indian health centers.

Sponsored
2021 Social Justice Film Festival: ACTIVATE | REFUGE Online
Screening 50+ films that inspire and demand community action, October 7-17 at socialjusticefilmfestival.org.