Vaccine

Ahslynn Strode, an ER nurse at Providence St. Peter Hospital, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Providence Centralia Hospital ER pharmacist Christopher Andrews.

Vaccinations are set to begin next week at long-term care facilities in Washington state that have registered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a state health official said Wednesday during a media briefing.

Michele Roberts, the acting assistant secretary who's leading COVID-19 vaccine planning and distribution at the state Department of Health, said those vaccinations will begin Dec. 28.

Vaccines won't be distributed more widely — beyond high-risk health care workers, first responders and residents and staff at long-term care facilities — until at least the end of January, she said.

Roberts also updated the number of vaccine doses received so far. The state received 30,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine last week and expects 44,850 doses this week. Next week, the state expects to receive 57,525 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 44,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine, the second approved vaccine which also is administered in two doses, Roberts said.

The state initially expected about 400,000 doses this month, but now that number is closer to 330,000, she said.

Roberts explained the discrepancy, saying prior allocations were inadvertently based on vaccine doses produced, not doses cleared through a quality control process.

Meanwhile, the state is starting to see a downturn in the number of new COVID-19 cases, said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state's epidemiologist for communicable diseases.

Thurston County reported just 22 positive cases on Wednesday. 

The state Department of Health on Tuesday reported 1,252 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 25 new deaths. The daily confirmed figure is lower than the 2,000-per-day counts recently reported by the state.

"It's very promising news, but we're not out of the woods yet," Lindquist said about the trend.

Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for COVID-19 response, said the state avoided a post-Thanksgiving spike in positive cases, and she strongly urged residents to limit in-person holiday celebrations to only immediate households.

Dr. Umair Shah, the new state Secretary of Health, reminded everyone to wear a mask, to wash hands and to keep a safe distance from people outside their households.