Department of Health outlines next phase of Washington’s COVID-19 response

The Washington State Department of Health on Thursday released its long-term ForWArd plan for the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and “co-exist with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future,” the department said in a news release.

To date, more than 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across Washington, which the department says is one of the highest state vaccination rates in the U.S., and has helped the state maintain one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates among states.

“Washington has come a long way since January 2020, when the country’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was found in our state,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “I am proud of the steps Washingtonians have taken over the past two years to keep themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors safe, as we worked together to fight this evolving virus.”

According to the Department of Health announcement, the plan has three main priorities with seven commitments:

Engagement ane empowerment:

  • The agency’s main priority continues to be the health and safety of everyone in Washington. This includes preventing severe disease caused by COVID-19 and supporting healing and general wellness.
  • DOH will monitor the science and COVID-19 updates to provide people and organizations across Washington with the latest health information, guidance, and resources to stay safe, and do so with an equity lens.

Prevention through vaccines, tests and masks:

  • Vaccines are the most powerful tool available to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, the department said, adding it is committed to efforts to further close equity gaps and support mobile outreach efforts.
  • The Department of Health said it has distributed millions of at-home tests through efforts like Say Yes! Covid Test” and through local and tribal partners. The department said it will expand these efforts while maintaining access to diagnostic testing.
  • Noting that masks are an effective safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, the Department of Health said it is prepared to provide personal protective equipment, including a 60-day supply to support the health care system.

System readiness:

  • The Department of Health said it is committed to proactive data monitoring and disease detection through genomic sequencing 10% of COVID-19 cases and using additional tools to gauge ongoing transmission trends and changes in conditions that signal a need to change the department’s response.
  • The agency will support health system capacity through workforce resiliency efforts and provide medical supplies such as ventilators and hospital beds and patient balancing across the system.
  • Treatment and therapeutics are also key to preventing and treating COVID-19 and protecting the health care system, the department said, adding it will ensure access to available antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, particularly to areas or groups with higher disease burden and reduced access.

“While we don’t know when the pandemic will truly end, we do know how to protect ourselves and our communities from COVID-19,” said Department of Health Deputy Secretary Lacy Fehrenbach. The department, she added, “is committed to following a path to recovery by empowering people, organizations, and businesses to come together to protect each other, keep our economy strong, our schools open, and our state moving forward.”

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