to become more available
COVID-19 cases are spiking. Meanwhile, federal efforts are ongoing to increase access to COVID-19 tests and vaccines.
Snohomish County saw new COVID-19 cases mount last week: Between Dec. 16 and Dec. 28, there were 2,969 new cases reported and 23 new hospital admissions because of COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows. There were less than 10 deaths.
State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases Dr. Scott Lindquist said through a state Department of Health news release that “Omicron likely has overtaken the Delta variant in Washington or will very soon based on sequencing” tests done to identify which version of COVID-19 is infecting people.
Omicron has flipped the trajectory for COVID-19 again after this fall’s Delta variant spike.
To get tested
People might turn to at-home COVID-19 tests when weather prevents going to a test site.
The self-tests cannot be used for proof of a negative status for travel or entering venues and restaurants, but can help identify whether you have COVID-19 or not when feeling sick.
At-home self-tests currently are sold at major pharmacies for between $12 and $30. Starting later this month, rapid antigen at-home tests can be ordered by mail for free from the federal government.
Snow closed the Snohomish Health District’s drive-up testing stations most of last week.
The state has partnered with Walgreens pharmacies to offer drive-up testing by appointment. Locations include two Walgreens stores in Everett: 2205 Broadway in north Everett and 6807 Evergreen Way in south-central Everett. The Marysville Walgreens also offers COVID-19 tests. The tests are diagnostic lab tests.
The Everett Clinic and Sea Mar clinics also offer testing.
Feds to offer to send self-tests by mail
On Dec. 21, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. government will purchase half a billion rapid antigen self-tests to be distributed soon. Starting sometime this month, these will be mailed for free to people who request them, the White House said. The government will set up a website to place an order.
It’s the state Department of Health (DOH)’s understanding these will be direct-to-consumer from the federal government, but the DOH also is working to arrange to send its own supplies with an ordering system, state DOH Deputy Secretary Lacy Fehrenbach said Dec. 30.
Tapping into the federal supply “will help us continue meeting the demand for testing,” state DOH COVID-19 spokeswoman Katie Pope said.
Generally, “we feel confident that we have sufficient testing supplies and resources to expand testing where needed in Washington,” Pope said by email.
Testing is in heavy demand. Fehrenbach suggested having COVID-19 self-tests at home in preparation for when or if you feel sick.
Meanwhile, a small set of brand-name COVID-19 tests may be less sensitive to detecting the Omicron variant, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned Dec. 28. The FDA identified one as the Linea COVID-19 Assay Kit. Another is a molecular “PCR” test from Tide Laboratories. A third, from Meridian Bioscience, never got shipped for use and is now being reworked, the FDA said.
Report a COVID-positive at-home test result
The DOH says people who purchase over-the-counter test kits and receive a positive result should call the state COVID-19 hot line, 1-800-525-0127, and then press # (press 7 for Spanish), as soon as they receive results. The hot line is available Monday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Tuesday to Sunday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Language assistance is available.
People can also report a positive result using the WA Notify smartphone app. It will use digital tracing to anonymously tell everyone who had the app on at the same time that they were near a person positive for COVID-19.
Find a testing location
The county’s health district has information online at www.snohd.org/testing
The state has a website where you can find a test site: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations
The Snohomish Health District is offering drive-thru testing and vaccination services at the Ash Way Park & Ride, 16327 Ash Way, Lynnwood.
The site has both regular vaccinations and booster vaccinations. Appointments are required.
Most pharmacies and major stores also have the COVID-19 vaccine.
You can get a free ride to get a vaccine: Community Transit is offering free, roundtrip bus rides to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Customers do not need to provide any documents; they can simply tell the bus driver they are traveling to get the vaccine or are returning from receiving it. To plan a trip to any location, go to www.communitytransit.org or call 425-353-RIDE (7433) or TTY Relay 711.
Get help by phone
Snohomish Health District’s COVID-19 call center number is 425-339-5278.
The state has a vacccine hot line at 1-833-VAX-HELP.
COVID outbreak happened in Monroe prison unit
From around the Thanksgiving holiday until early December, there was a COVID-19 outbreak among inmates within the Twin Rivers Unit of the Monroe prison.
The outbreak saw more than 140 new cases within the unit, from state Department of Corrections (DOC) figures. The DOC reported that the site was no longer on facility-wide outbreak status in its Dec. 16 bulletin.
The DOC offers a daily bulletin service on coronavirus activity within the prison system.
The inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 were relocated to temporary housing elsewhere within the campus.
The Twin Rivers Unit is for medium and minimum security inmates and houses more than 800.
In related news
Virus-neutralizing antibodies found
An international team of scientists have identified antibodies that neutralize Omicron and other SARS-CoV-2 variants. These antibodies target areas of the virus spike protein that remain essentially unchanged as the viruses mutate.
By identifying the targets of these “broadly neutralizing” antibodies on the spike protein, it might be possible to design vaccines and antibody treatments that will be effective against not only the Omicron variant but other variants that may emerge in the future, said David Veesler, investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
“This finding tells us that by focusing on antibodies that target these highly conserved sites on the spike protein, there is a way to overcome the virus’ continual evolution,” Veesler said.
Veesler led the research project with Davide Corti of Humabs Biomed SA, a subsidiary of Vir Biotechnology of Switzerland. The study’s findings were published Dec. 23 in the journal “Nature.” The lead authors of the study were Elisabetta Cameroni and Christian Saliba (Humabs), John E. Bowen (UW Biochemistry) and Laura Rosen (Vir).
The Omicron variant has 37 mutations in the spike protein, which it uses to latch onto and invade cells. This is an unusually high number of mutations. It is thought that these changes explain in part why the variant has been able to spread so rapidly, to infect people who have been vaccinated and to reinfect those who have previously been infected.
— University of Washington press release
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