News for the Week of February 22

News highlights for the week of February 22.

Latest Numbers. In Mercer Island, there have been 476 positive cases reported as of February 26. DOH reported a total of 319,498 confirmed cases as of February 24. There have been 4,942 COVID-19 deaths in Washington. For the latest city and county data, click here.

Virtual Event: COVID-19 Town Hall on March 3. Several King County Councilmembers and Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health - Seattle & King County will be hosting a live-streamed Town Hall on Facebook. You do not need to have a Facebook account to participate. Interested members of the public are invited to submit questions in advance via this link.

Appearance of variants of concern in King County reinforce need to stay vigilant. The variant known as B.1.351 was originally identified in South Africa in December and has been found in ten states in the U.S. At this point, it is not known to cause more severe disease, and it is not clear whether it spreads more readily than other strains. It appears that this strain can reduce the effectiveness of some vaccines, but the vaccines still provide strong protection against severe illness and death. Click here for more.

Variants of COVID-19. Information about the characteristics of these variants is rapidly emerging. Scientists are working to learn more about how easily they spread, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against them. Click here for more.

Inslee signs $2.2 billion COVID relief bill. Last Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1368, which appropriates $2.2 billion in federal funding that has been allocated to states in response to the ongoing COVID emergency. The legislation takes effect immediately. The bill provides: $714 million in assistance for K-12 schools; $618 million for public health’s response to COVID, including testing, investigation and contact tracing; and funding for vaccination efforts; $365 million for emergency eviction, rental and utility assistance; $240 million for business assistance grants; $50 million for child care; $26 million for food banks and other food programs; $91 million for income assistance, including $65 million for relief for the state’s immigrant population.

Situation Reports. The City has moved to monthly Situation Reports (SitReps), available the first Friday of the month. The next SitRep will be available the afternoon of March 5. Click here to catch up on the latest information and reports.


Information for Businesses

SBA prioritizes smallest of small businesses in the Paycheck Protection Program. The U.S. Small Business Administration is taking steps with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to further promote equitable relief for America's small businesses, offering PPP loans to businesses with fewer than 20 employees and sole proprietors only beginning Feb. 24 through March 10, 2021. Read more here.

Vaccine News

Have Questions about the vaccine? Check out the state’s resource hub. It’s natural to have questions about the vaccine. And when it comes to vaccines, like many other complicated health topics, the line between fact and fiction can quickly get blurred. That’s where CovidVaccineWA.org comes in. Think of CovidVaccineWA.org as your all-in-one hub for the most up to date and reliable information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington. Click here for the full article.

King County COVID-19 Vaccine Data At-a-Glance. Page updated daily here.

COVID-19 vaccine distribution update from DOH. As of Feb. 22, more than 1,411,453 doses of vaccine have been given across the state, which is more than 75 percent of the 1,821,705 doses that have been delivered to our providers and long-term care programs. Washington is averaging 25,346 vaccine doses given each day. We hit a new record Feb. 11, administering 44,872 doses in a single day, which is extremely close to our goal of vaccinating 45,000 people per day. Read the full news release here [to be posted soon].

School News

New modeling report explores options for safer return to in-person learning. On February 24, the State DOH and the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) released a new report that explores how to minimize COVID-19 introductions in schools, and what can be done to mitigate its spread within schools and the larger community. Click here for the press release.

Resources

Introducing Blind COVID, a community resource for blind and low-vision individuals. Blind COVID is a grant funded by the Washington State Department of Health that was given to the Washington State School for the Blind. The goal of this grant was to create and find accessible resources for people who are blind that specifically deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID Access line is open at 360-947-3330 for more support with access to COVID-19 resources. No medical advice, but access advice to info that might be otherwise difficult to locate.

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