Delta variant still dominant in Washington
The rate of new COVID cases in Okanogan County continues to be flat, with 34 cases in the eight days ending Dec. 27, compared with 32 in the previous week. Three of the cases were in Winthrop, one in Twisp, and one in Methow.
The percentage of the county’s population vaccinated against COVID remains at 47%, according to Okanogan County Public Health.
While the Omicron variant, which health officials say is extremely contagious, has become dominant across the country, it still hasn’t overtaken the Delta variant in Washington.
As of Dec. 18, Omicron accounted for 15.6% of COVID cases in Washington, while Delta still accounted for 84.4%, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). Two weeks earlier, only 0.3% of cases were caused by Omicron. Determining the variant requires genetic sequencing and only a minority of cases are sequenced.
The majority of Omicron cases were in King County, followed by Snohomish and Pierce. There were a handful in eastern Washington, including in Yakima and Benton counties.
Treatments for COVID
In addition to vaccines for everyone age 5 and above, which health officials say provide good protection against the Delta and Omicron variants, there are now two pills to keep people with COVID from becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalization.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency use authorization (EUA) to the first two pills to treat COVID in people at high risk of progression to severe disease, including hospitalization or death.
On Dec. 22, the FDA approved a drug called Paxlovid made by Pfizer to treat mild to moderate COVID in adults and children age 12 and older. In clinical trials of people at high risk for severe disease, Paxlovid reduced the proportion of those with COVID-related hospitalization or death by 88% compared to a placebo, the FDA said.
The following day, the FDA issued an EUA for Molnupiravir, made by Merck, to treat mild to moderate COVID in adults at high risk for progression to severe COVID. Molnupiravir is not authorized for use in patients younger than 18 because it may affect bone and cartilage growth. It’s also not authorized for pregnant people because it may cause fetal harm, the FDA said.
In clinical trials of Molnupiravir, there was a 3% reduction in hospitalization and a greater reduction in death for those receiving the drug, compared to those who received a placebo.
Both drugs work by keeping the coronavirus from replicating in the body. Both are available by prescription only and should be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms. Neither drug is for treatment of severe COVID already requiring hospitalization.
The drugs don’t prevent COVID and are not a substitute for vaccination, the FDA said.
An EUA is different from an FDA approval. In determining whether to issue an EUA, the FDA evaluates all scientific evidence available and balances known or potential risks and benefits.
WA Notify for at-home test results
WA Notify, the free app that provides anonymous notifications of exposure to COVID, now lets people who get a positive result on an over-the-counter test to notify others of a potential exposure.
Users would need to obtain a verification code and then call a toll-free number to report the positive result. That information would then be transmitted to other phones that have been in proximity.
WA Notify works by having phones exchange random, anonymous codes using Bluetooth. If a WA Notify user later tests positive for COVID and adds the verification code, the phone will send out an anonymous exposure notification to the phones of other WA Notify users they were near who may have been exposed. Users may then take necessary steps, like testing and quarantining, to help stop the spread of COVID, according to DOH.
For more information, or to activate the app, go to https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/WANotify.