With Covid-19 infections spiking more than ever, here’s what to know amid the holidays
The first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine authorized for public use have arrived in Washington state. But that's not going to change the situation significantly before the holiday season ends. Public health officials are urging people to keep masking up and social distancing.
KUOW news anchor Paige Browning is tracking the public health guidance. She joins us to review some frequently asked questions about the winter season.
What we know is that Washington is expected to get 222,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from now until January 1. In total, the state could get 500,000 to a million doses by mid-February. That means as many as a million people could have access to at least the first dose of the vaccine by about Valentine's Day. But it could be much less than that, depending on how well distribution goes, and if Moderna’s vaccine candidate is also authorized.
You've heard this before, virtually [celebrating the holidays] is best. It's the safest at least. If you do gifts, open them in a video chat together. Do a food swap. Maybe caravan to see the lights — something virtual and physically distanced.
We know some people will still gather in person, despite public health guidance. If people are going to expand their Covid pod, you do that by putting yourself in a two-week quarantine. That should have started last Friday if you plan to see your brother or mom or whoever on Christmas Day.
The CDC and Washington's Department of Health say if you have to travel all the sudden, then your last case option is for you to quarantine for seven days, then get tested for Covid at the end of that with a negative result.
Free Covid testing sites are ready for long lines of people. They're serving long lines of people basically every day already since the cases are spreading so fast in our state. But, public health officials don't want people just coming to get a test so that they can travel.
To curb some of that behavior, the testing site schedule has changed. Now you can schedule a Covid test a couple of days out, but no further. Ahead of Thanksgiving, that was different. People were booking a Covid test a week or more in advance, likely not for illness, but so that they could have a Thanksgiving event.
There's a new free testing site — the first on the east side. It opens tomorrow at Bellevue College. This one's going to run Monday through Saturday. It's intended to serve Bellevue, but also Issaquah, Sammamish — maybe people as far out as North Bend. Now we've got about a dozen free test sites in King County. They're funded by federal Cares Act dollars, and those dry up January 1.
The outbreak is really high right now — the highest it's ever been. The daily average of new cases in Washington is 2,200 cases. That's how many people on average are infected every day in Washington. In March, the daily average was 370. It's grim.
But I will leave you this with this: There are brighter days ahead. That's what I'm trying to keep in mind. Local public health officials are hoping that now, with a vaccine, this could be the last major holiday that will be under these strict guidelines.
Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above. This interview has been edited for clarity.