Washington state on Thursday evening released its plan for the future of COVID-19 prevention and surveillance as the region moves into the “next phase” of response, though certain details remained vague.
State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah previewed the plan — named WA Forward — this week, and said it would focus on engaging families and communities in continued COVID education; preventing further spread through vaccines, testing and masks; and preparing health and data systems to monitor disease trends and hospital capacity.
“This is a long-term forward plan to keep people, families and communities safe, protected and healthy as we move to this next phase of the pandemic, while continuing to monitor COVID-19 across the country, the globe and certainly here in Washington,” Shah said.
The plan, which state officials say will be updated as needed, lays out the Department of Health’s main goals for the year, though it lacks specifics on how exactly each objective will be implemented.
The report begins by committing to continue monitoring COVID data and provide updated guidance and resources to schools, child care centers, businesses and other community organizations.
It then moves on to COVID vaccines — which DOH will continue to roll out through health care providers, community partnerships and mobile vaccination efforts, the plan says. As of this week, the state has given out over 13.1 million shots, including fully immunizing 5.3 million Washingtonians age 5 and up and providing one dose to nearly 550,000 others.
The state promised to keep up the distribution pace with 30,000 doses administered per day, potentially expanding to up to 60,000 doses per day within a week if needed.
Testing and masks are also still a priority, according to the plan. Demand for at-home tests has dropped since the omicron wave began to subside over the past month, though DOH said this month it will keep the statewide online ordering website up while supplies last.
Now, Washingtonians can order up to two free coronavirus test kits per month, each containing four to five tests, as long as they remain in stock.
According to the plan, the state “will be prepared” to provide up to 50,000 tests per day for six months if demand picks back up. DOH also said it will have a ready supply of at least 7.5 million high-quality masks for community distribution and a 60-day supply of PPE for health care workers in case viral transmission increases again.
The state’s goals for its third and final priority this year — system readiness and capacity — include an overview of its genomic sequencing abilities, health care system capacity and COVID treatments and therapeutics, like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.
The Washington Medical Coordination Center, which was established when the pandemic began and serves as a clearinghouse for placing COVID patients around the state, will also stay active to help hospitals balance patient loads, the plan says.
“While the virus remains with us and is expected to circulate for the foreseeable future, individual Washingtonians, families, businesses (and) the fabric of our social support system will take years to recover,” the plan says. “Now is the time we move forward.”