State moves to Phase 2, but vaccine woes continue
— Created February 17, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
All regions in Washington have now moved to Phase 2 of the state’s Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery plan.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week five more regions would progress to Phase 2 beginning Sunday, citing an earlier-than-anticipated move to help small businesses and restaurants take advantage of Valentine’s Day. Only the South Central region was to remain in Phase 1, but an error by a Walla Walla hospital in reporting its numbers was discovered, meaning the South Central region has now joined the rest of the state in Phase 2.
The move to Phase 2 doesn’t change much, but restaurants, fitness centers and indoor entertainment venues are now allowed to operate at 25-percent capacity. That is welcome news to those in the artistic community.
“We are once again open and ready to entertain our community with high-quality programming,” said Verna Everitt, executive director of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. “We believe islanders are thirsty for art, hungry to gather and share an experience that will bring laughter and tears, joy, and for some, a cathartic moment that they’ve sorely missed.”
“Programming starts [this] week,” said WICA Artistic Director Deana Duncan. “I am mostly excited about putting our local artists back to work: Andre Ferianti, Judith Adams, Sue Frause with guests, The Whidbey Orchestra led by Cynthia Morrow, David Ossman, Robert Merry, Mark Findlay and actors who will be auditioning for our April Weill Cabaret and June production of Sam Shepard’s masterpiece, “Curse of the Starving Class.” This closure had a domino effect, leaving our artists without work.”
Guitarist Andre Ferianti and poet Judith Adams have a performance at WICA Friday evening. Meanwhile, WICA has worked for more than a year to bring stage-to-screen productions to Whidbey Island. Its new programming with Broadway HD’s “Kinky Boots” is set for Saturday and Sunday and “Frankenstein,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch will be featured Feb. 27-28. Future screenings include “42nd Street” and the award-winning “War Horse.” Go to wicaonline.org for information, performance schedules, ticketing and seating options.
Phase 2 means retail stores are still limited to 25 percent capacity and curbside pickup is strongly encouraged. Masks and social distancing are still required. A complete list of the Phase 2 requirements can be found online at www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/HealthyWashington.pdf.
In order to remain in Phase 2, regions are required to meet three of four metrics, which include decreasing trends in the 14-day rate of new COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions, a decreasing or steady occupancy of ICU beds and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests.
The State Department of Health will assess the metrics for all regions every two weeks, with any adjustments announced on Thursdays. The next announcement will be Feb. 25 and any changes would take effect March 1. Regions could slip back to Phase 1 should they fail to meet three out of the four metrics outlined above. At this point, no criteria for a potential Phase 3 has been announced.
Vaccine Challenges Continue
Even though the state has now moved to Phase 2, there are still plenty of hiccups when it comes to vaccine distribution.
A spokesperson from the Washington State Department of Health told Whidbey Weekly recently as much as 35 percent of the state’s allotment of vaccine was being diverted to mass vaccination centers. As a result, Island County did not receive as much vaccine as expected, forcing Island Drug and WhidbeyHealth, the county’s approved vaccination providers, to cancel pre-existing appointments and only reschedule as they receive vaccine.
However, Island County received no vaccine last week and is not expecting to receive any vaccine this week, either.
“We have not received vaccine doses for more than a week and it is looking like it will be longer. This means that new prime (first dose) and booster (second dose) dose appointments will not be available until we receive vaccine,” Conor O’Brien, WhidbeyHealth marketing manager, told Whidbey Weekly via email. “We were hopeful that due to our storage capacity for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (we have two ultra-cold freezers that can hold thousands of doses) that we would receive a consistent supply of the vaccine, but that has not been the case thus far.”
While state DOH personnel were unavailable to answer questions from Whidbey Weekly due to the President’s Day holiday, a spokesperson did say the state has had difficulty procuring shipments of vaccine from the federal government because of recent bad weather.
“Regarding next week’s vaccinations, I can tell you that there is a delay at the national level due to bad weather throughout the nation,” said WADOH public information officer Teresa McCallion. “The Centers for Disease and Prevention informed us to expect delivery delays due to difficulties in getting the vaccine to Washington state. They say the weather is impacting operations at both airports and the point of origin for the vaccines. With predictions of adverse weather next week, there could be additional delays.”
One of the big challenges now, besides actually getting vaccine, is the ability to provide that important second dose to those who have been able to procure their first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
“We are working hard to ensure that those who have received their prime (first) dose with us and scheduled their booster dose appointment while at their first appointment, will receive their booster doses as planned,” said O’Brien. “The same State platform (WA Immunization Information System) we enter our vaccination records into is the same platform we request our allocations through – and we’re doing all we can to ensure those who have a prime dose administered by WhidbeyHealth’s Vaccine Clinic can come back to us to receive their booster dose. Eligible members of the community can watch our website: whidbeyhealth.org/covid-19/#appointments, whidbeyhealth.org/news/, or our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WhidbeyHealth for any updates about Vaccine Clinic appointment availability.”
Island Drug posted on its webpage Sunday it is expecting a shipment this week of some of its requested booster doses that did not arrive last week. Those interested may go to islanddrug.com/pages/covidvaccine/ for more detailed information. To find out whether you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, go to FindYourPhaseWa.org.