WA Department of Health Releases Next Phase of Vaccine Prioritization

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January 8, 2021

On January 6th, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released guidance for phase 1B, which is the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine prioritization. DOH worked closely with the Governor’s Office to finalize prioritization for phase 1B, while also relying on federal guidance and public input through focus groups, interviews, and surveys over the past few months.

This guidance is for planning purposes only. Washington State and Skagit County will remain in Phase 1A of vaccinations until all Phase 1A individuals who want the vaccines have it. As a reminder, Phase 1A includes:

Tier 1: High risk workers in health care settings; High risk first responders; and residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other community-based, congregate living settings where most individuals over 65 years of age are receiving care, supervision, or assistance.

Tier 2: All workers in healthcare settings.

Skagit County Public Health and its partner providers are ready to vaccinate our community; however, the ability to do so remains reliant on when and how much vaccine is received from the State. Current allocations have been very limited. To date, Skagit County has only received vaccine to meet approximately 25% of our 1A eligible workers and long term care facility residents.  Phase 1A will need to be completed before we will be able to move on to Phase 1B in Skagit County.

People should not expect Skagit County to move into Phase 1B until February at the earliest. If we receive greater dose allocations from the state, this timing will improve. Public Health will announce movement into the next phase of vaccinations via our press release system, web site and social media. Sign up here to get press releases from Skagit County.

“Skagit County Public Health and our partner providers have put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this moment. We are ready! As soon as we receive a consistent supply of vaccine from the State and are clear to begin phase 1B, we will let Skagitonians know how and where to get vaccinated.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

Due to limited vaccine availability, Phase 1B has been broken up into four separate tiers. Groups eligible for vaccination in phase 1B will include:

Phase 1B1 – (Tier 1)

  • All people 70 years and older
  • People 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households

Phase 1B2 – (Tier 2)

  • High risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in certain congregate settings: Agriculture; food processing; grocery stores; K-12 (teachers and school staff); childcare; corrections, prisons, jails or detention facilities (staff); public transit; fire; law enforcement

Phase 1B3 – (Tier 3)

  • People 16 years or older with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions

Phase 1B4 – (Tier 4)

  • High-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings under 50 years
  • People, staff and volunteers all ages in congregate living settings:
    • Correctional facilities; group homes for people with disabilities; people experiencing homelessness that live in or access services in congregate settings
Skagit County Public Health’s vaccine roll-out timeline, estimated based on WA DOH’s guidance and timeline, as well as adequate vaccine allocation from federal and state government.

WA DOH has also announced the creation of the Phase Finder online tool that allows people to assess their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. It is currently being tested for Phase 1A eligible individuals and will launch broadly on January 18th. Phase Finder will be available in multiple languages and will be used to confirm individual eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

For COVID-19 vaccine information, visit our webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


Visiting Loved Ones in Long-Term Care Facilities and Nursing Homes – Latest Guidelines

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Governor Inslee recently announced new visiting rules for long-term care facilities and nursing homes, which will give some families and friends increased access to see their loved ones. We know that people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are often older adults and people with chronic health conditions—the groups who are at highest risk of complications from COVID-19. Since people live together in close proximity in these facilities, COVID-19 can easily spread within these environments, so protections were put in place to safeguard residents from the disease.

The new visiting rules will include a four-phase plan that is different from the state’s four-phase Safe Start Plan for counties that you may have heard about. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities cannot be in a more advanced phase than the counties they are in (Skagit County is currently in phase 2). Facilities will also stay in phase 1 if the local COVID case rate per 100,000 residents exceeds 75, which Skagit County currently exceeds as of August 26.

The new rules took effect on August 12, and family members should check with the facility their loved one lives in, because not every site may be able to conduct visits right away. It may take some time for facilities to work through the application and approval process with Washington State.

What will visiting look like in the different phases?

Depending on the phase, visiting access will differ. As of the time of this article, Skagit County remains in phase 1 with a high risk level.

Long-Term Care Facilities in Phase 1:

  • Indoor visits are limited to compassionate care situations. Compassionate care situations include end-of-life circumstances and for psychosocial needs (ex. distress brought on by the death of a loved one or a sudden lifestyle change).
  • Outdoor visits are allowed and limited to two visitors per resident per visit. These visits must include masking, social distancing, and appropriate hygiene.
  • Facilities may invite “window visits” at their discretion with safety protocols in place.
  • Remote visitation through technology must be facilitated.

Additional Access for Long-Term Care Facilities in Phase 2:

  • Adds ability of a designated “essential support person” to visit a resident once per day if the resident is unable to participate in outdoor visits and if remote visitation technology is unavailable.

Additional Access for Long-Term Care Facilities in Phase 3:

  • Indoor visits are generally permitted, with limitations. Facilities will establish visitor hours, visitor limits, and safety precautions. Preference should be given to outdoor visits.

Additional Access for Long-Term Care Facilities in Phase 4:

  • Normal visitation resumes.
The graduated restart plan is based off of the Washington State Safe Start Model.

Families should also know that a facility or agency must meet certain criteria before entering a new phase, including a current 28-day period without a resident or staff member testing positive for COVID-19 and having at least a 14-day supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) stocked.

Questions or Need Help for a Loved One?

This can be a stressful time for family members and caregivers. Washington State has established a FamHelp Long-Term Care Phone Hotline at (888) 856-5691 that is open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. to answer questions about long-term care and other DSHS facilities.