(ELMA, WA) – Communities across our state and around the U.S. are experiencing an unprecedented surge in viral respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19. As health officers and health care leaders working to improve the health of Washington residents, we recommend that everyone wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when around others in indoor spaces to protect against both acquiring and spreading these infections to others.
We also urge everyone who is eligible to stay up to date on your vaccinations. Vaccinations are the most important way to protect against severe influenza and COVID-19 infections, including hospitalization and death. Everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated against these diseases and those who are eligible for an updated COVID-19 booster should get it now.
Other necessary strategies include:
• Staying home from work and school and testing for COVID-19 if you develop symptoms.
• Having a plan for rapid treatment for COVID-19 and influenza for people who are at increased risk for severe infections.
• Improving indoor air quality through ventilation, filtration, and UV technology where appropriate.
We expect the flu to circulate for months, so now is the time to get your flu shot!
The flu is most dangerous for:
• Children under 5 years (especially under 2).
• Adults 65 years or older.
• Those who are pregnant.
• Anyone living with a health condition like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Consult with your physician or healthcare provider about the need for testing or treatment if you are at increased risk for severe influenza or are unsure.
In addition to RSV and influenza, new COVID-19 variants are taking hold and immunity from past vaccination is waning for many people who have not yet received an updated booster shot. The surge in these viruses is resulting in many illnesses, with a record number of schools reporting more than 10% absenteeism this fall. This impact extends to businesses, workers and families.
For people who develop symptoms, and for parents of young children, it’s important to know when to contact your physician or healthcare provider for advice or an evaluation.
Working together and using multiple, layered strategies to limit the spread and impact of these viruses will provide benefits to all of us during this fall and winter respiratory virus season and help relieve serious stress on our healthcare system.
Thank you to everyone for doing what you can to help.
Local Health Officers
• Dimyana Abdelmalek, MD, MPH, Health Officer, Thurston County Public Health
• Allison Berry, MD, MPH, Health Officer, Clallam and Jefferson Counties
• Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, Director of Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
• Jeff Duchin, MD, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle and King County
• Amy Harley, MD, MPH, Co-Health Officer, Whatcom County Health Department
• Frank James, MD, Health Officer, San Juan County Health & Community Services
• Steven Krager, MD, MPH, Deputy Health Officer, Clark, Pacific and Skamania Counties
• Mark Larson, MD, Health Officer, Kittitas County Public Health Department
• James Lewis, MD, MPH, Health Officer, Snohomish Health District
• Alan Melnick, MD, MPH, Health Officer, Clark, Pacific and Skamania Counties
• Gib Morrow, MD, MPH, Health Officer, Kitsap Public Health District
• Greg Thompson, MD, MPH, Co-Health Officer, Whatcom County Health Department
• June M. Altaras, MN, NEA-BC, Executive Vice President, Chief Quality, Safety and Nursing Officer, MultiCare Health System
• Michael H. Anderson, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health
• Mike Barsotti, MD, FAAP, President, Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
• Tori Bernier, Chief Nursing Officer, Summit Pacific Medical Center
• Timothy Dellit, MD, interim Chief Executive Officer, UW Medicine, interim Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and interim Dean of the UW School of Medicine
• Mike Glenn, MHA, Chief Executive Officer, Jefferson Healthcare
• Jennifer A. Graves, RN, MS, Vice President, Quality and Safety, Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Kaiser Permanente Washington, Regional Chief Nursing Executive, Kaiser Permanente Washington
• Sean Gregory, Chief Executive, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center
• Carlton Heine, MD, PhD, FACEP, FAWM, Chapter President, Washington American College of Emergency Physicians
• Mark Johnson, MD, President, Washington Academy of Family Physicians
• Scott Kennedy, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Olympic Medical Center
• Robb Kimmes, Chief Executive Officer, Skyline Health
• David Knoepfler, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, FACP, FHM, Overlake Medical Center
• Onora Lien, Executive Director, Northwest Healthcare Response Network
• Carma Matti-Jackson, President & Chief Executive Officer, Washington Health Care Association
• Ruth McDonald, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Seattle Children’s
• Deb Murphy, MPA, J.D., President & Chief Executive Officer, LeadingAge Washington
• Ettore Palazzo, MD, FACP, Chief Medical & Quality Officer, EvergreenHealth
• Charles Prosper, Chief Executive Officer, PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center
• Katina Rue, DO, President, Washington State Medical Association
• Cassie Sauer, President & Chief Executive Officer, Washington State Hospital Association
• Arooj Simmonds, MD, Regional Chief Medical Officer, Puget Sound Region, Providence Swedish
• Dori Unterseher MN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer, Harbor Regional Health
• Lynnette Vehrs, RN, MN, President, Washington State Nurses Association
• Darryl Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer, Olympic Medical Center