Thurston County COVID-19 Update: Thurston County Health Officer Letter to Community

Letter to the Community: April 23, 2021

Hello Thurston County! I hope you are enjoying our beautiful Pacific Northwest spring weather. Here at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services we have been working hard on vaccination efforts. On April 15, 2021, all Thurston County residents 16 and older became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We are fortunate to have two safe and effective vaccines available. Both Moderna and Pfizer are effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19 as well as slowing the spread of COVID-19. The best vaccine is the one available to you. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is reviewing the data on the rare side effects of the Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) vaccine.

What can you do once you are vaccinated?

As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases new information about the impacts of vaccine on the spread of COVID-19 disease, our understanding about what is safe changes. For now, we all need to continue maintaining six feet or more of distance between ourselves and non-household members when in public and wearing masks. We need to be diligent in this until enough people are vaccinated, limiting potential for disease transmission.

The CDC recently released guidelines about what individuals who are fully vaccinated can do. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series such as Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine. Fully vaccinated individuals can socialize with other fully vaccinated people indoors without distancing or wearing masks and may visit with unvaccinated people who are at low-risk of bad outcomes from COVID-19 infection from a single household who are asymptomatic. For example, fully vaccinated grandparents can visit grandchildren who have not yet been vaccinated.

When visiting people who are at high-risk of bad outcomes from COVID-19, including those who are unvaccinated and are immune compromised, have other comorbidities, or are advanced in age, masking and distancing are still required. Masking and maintaining six feet or more of distance are still required in public and in the workplace, regardless of vaccination status.

We are still learning about how well vaccines prevent transmission of COVID-19. While early results are encouraging, we are still seeing some asymptomatic spread and breakthrough cases. The good news is that being vaccinated greatly reduces the risk of severe illness and death if people do contract the virus. Because no vaccine can provide 100% protection, these breakthrough cases are expected. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is keeping track of breakthrough cases to look for patterns.

When can I begin travelling again?

This is the season for travel and many people in our community are taking non-essential trips. While non-essential travel is allowed, it is not recommended. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated need to get tested for COVID-19 one to three days before travel and get tested three to five days after travel and quarantine for a full seven days upon return. If one elects not to get tested upon return, the quarantine period is ten days.

Individuals who are fully vaccinated can travel within the domestic United States without testing or self-quarantining after travel. For those who are fully vaccinated and seeking to travel internationally, testing is only required if the destination requires it. Those returning to the United States still need to show documentation of a negative test or recovery from COVID-19 illness. After return from an international destination, fully vaccinated individuals should still get tested three to five days after arrival to the United States, and quarantine is not necessary in this circumstance.

Are we at risk of moving back to Phase 2 with our rising case counts?

We have recently seen an increase in our case counts. Today, we are at 151.5 cases of COVID-19 per 100K over 14 days and have been steadily increasing over recent weeks. We are still looking at potential causes, but we do know some people who have been newly diagnosed have traveled, some have been exposed to COVID-19 by friends and family, and still others were exposed in the workplace.

We are also starting to see an increase in the number of people who are admitted to our hospitals with severe COVID-19 infections. The rate of new hospitalized COVID-19 patients per 100K during the past week is 4.5. The Roadmap to Recovery Phase 3 guidance requires Thurston County to have fewer than 200 cases/100k over 14 days and fewer than 5 new hospitalizations per 100,000. We must fail both metrics to move back to Phase 2. It is up to all of us to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID 19 and stay in Phase 3.

Please email me with any questions you would like answered in my next letter. Questions can be sent to tcphss.pio@co.thurston.wa.us.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dimyana Abdelmalek, MD, MPH

Health Officer, Thurston County

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