Teacher vaccinations

Volunteer Dorothy Engom gives Paraeducator Arlene Volkman her dose of the vaccine Wednesday at Island Hospital. 

Island Hospital received 800 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, making it the second week in a row the hospital received an allotment after four weeks without any.

“We’re very thankful to all those who have advocated for us,” Charles Hall, Island Hospital CEO, told the American on Monday.

On March 17, the next tier, phase 1B-3, will become eligible and include critical workers in congregate settings such as agricultural workers, fishing vessel crews, food processors, grocery store workers, prison and detention center workers, public transit and any first responders not already eligible.

On April 12, people 50 years or older with two or more underlying conditions will become eligible. On April 26, this expands to anyone 16 years or older with two or more underlying conditions.

It will also expand to people working or living in congregate living settings such as correctional facilities, group homes for people with disabilities, and centers for people who are homeless.

More options are now available to get the vaccine, including private pharmacies, which receive their allotment directly from the federal government, rather than the state, Hall said.

“We’re really excited to get the next tier vaccinated,” he said. Island Hospital will help administer 300 doses on Orcas Island at the Orcas Island Medical Clinic on Friday before Island Hospital takes over the operation in April.

The state Department of Health announced that case counts have increased slightly in Western Washington, especially among people ages 20 to 39. Sharp declines in hospital admissions for people 70 and older are thought to be due to the vaccination campaign.

Overall, case counts are trending lower than they were at the peak of infections in December when the state was seeing about 3,000 cases per day. But counts are still relatively high, similar to the case numbers in October, which was when third wave began to surge, according to the state Department of Health. The state as of Tuesday, March 16, has seen 4,775 cases in the past seven days, which is an average of 62.7 cases per 100,000 people a week, according the to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a return to measuring progress by county, rather than the controversial regional approach. All counties are set to move to Phase 3 on March 22 and will have metrics evaluated every three weeks to determine if downward phase movement is necessary.

Phase 3 will allow 50% capacity in stores, restaurants, gyms and theaters. There are no established guidelines yet for a Phase 4.

“We’re all just really excited for the business community,” Bridget Fry, events and communications director for the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce said.

“It’s a step in the right direction, especially for restaurants,” Fry said.

Though the state is moving to Phase 3, many essential workers, such as cashiers, servers and cooks still don’t know when they will become eligible to receive a vaccine.

The Washington Hospitality Association publicly applauded the move toward 50% in-person dining, but also demanded restaurant industry workers get access to the vaccine.

The third phase of the plan also allows for outdoor spectators at sports events, capped at 25% capacity.

Gov. Inslee signed a proclamation Monday requiring all public schools to provide at least two days of in-person instruction, or over 30% of instructing time for elementary schoolers by April 5 and for middle and high school by April 19.

“The youth mental health crisis has become significantly worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is time to provide an in-person learning option to help students that need it,” Inslee said during a press conference.

Educators and childcare workers became eligible for the vaccine at the start of March.

SCHEDULE A VACCINE

Find when you may be eligible, visit findyourphasewa.org.

• The next sign-ups through Island Hospital are Monday, March 22. Self-scheduling is completed at www.islandhospital.org/covidvaccine. A message line for people without internet access is 360-299-1367. Island Hospital is only vaccinating established patients and those who live in its service area, which includes Fidalgo Island, Guemes Island, Sinclair Island and La Conner.

• Skagit County Public Health has been keeping self-scheduling open throughout the week, but learns about the coming week’s supply on Fridays at 9 a.m. Visit prepmod.doh.wa.gov or call 360-416-1500. The county is providing the vaccine at the Skagit County Fairgrounds to anyone eligible, regardless of residence.

• Skagit Regional Health: Get details at skagitregionalhealth.org or call 360-814-6300.

• Private pharmacies in Whatcom, Skagit, and Island counties, including at Safeway, Costco and Fred Meyers, are listed as COVID-19 vaccine providers, but availability has been an issue. Information on how to schedule through these pharmacies and all providers can be found at prepmod.doh.wa.gov.

• The Washington State School for the Blind has set up a hotline for people with visual impairments to gain access to COVID-19 testing and vaccine information. The number is 360-947-3330.

By the Numbers

• Skagit County reported, as of Monday, 4,278 confirmed cases and 62 deaths since March 2020. That is an increase of 51 confirmed cases and 1 death since Monday, March 8.

• Island Hospital saw two more COVID-19 patients admitted since March 8, bringing the total to 45 since March 2020.

• Island Hospital has had one more reported staff infection since March 8. The total is now 15 since March 2020.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the brand of COVID-19 vaccine the hospital received this week.

Reporter

I cover health, environment, business and more at the Anacortes American. Feel free to send me tips at qinghram [at] goanacortes.com.

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