12 January 2023

Vol 5, Issue 1


COVID trends in Washington. Meet the lastest subvariant, XBB.1.5.

A COVID-19 virus on a blue background with the words: New Omicron Subvariants

Flu activity is still high. BD Triplex can help.

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Six holiday pumpkins of different colors seen from above.

Know your COVID-19 community level 


Top stories you might have missed


Learn MATH with Swab & Jab

The More you Know

COVID-19 News

COVID trends in Washington. Meet the lastest subvariant, XBB.1.5.

The omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, has become the dominant strain in the US over the holidays, making up 28% of all new cases. As we’ve seen with other subvariants, it is likely more transmissible than previous strains, but severity is yet unknown. We will be watching hospitalizations early in the year.

Here are the latest COVID numbers for Washington state.

As of December 31, 2022

Daily avg.Per 100,000*14-day change
Test positivity**7.2%--16%

Compared to last winter (December 31, 2021)

Daily avg.Per 100,000*14-day change
Test positivity**3.5%-+52%

*Shows 7-day rate

** Due to an increase in at-home testing, many positive cases may not be reported, distorting the data. Test positivity in Washington has been increasing steadily through the winter, from 6% in mid-November to 11.6% by the end of December. 

Who is or isn’t getting boosted?

The bivalent booster is the best defense against the COVID subvariants that are circulating. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that “Persons who received the BA.5-containing bivalent booster had better neutralizing activity against all omicron subvariants (especially against BA.2.75.2, BQ.1.1, and XBB) than those who received either one or two monovalent boosters.” (Note that the most recent subvariant, XBB.1.5, was not included in this study). As of January 7, 2023, BQ.1.1 is still the dominant strain in the US

Vaccination rates for the bivalent booster remain low in Washington state. Here are the latest numbers for the K-12 population:

Age group% who have received bivalent booster
6mo-5 yearsNo data at this time. This age group only became eligible at the end of 2022.
5-11 years23%
12-15 years20%
16-17 years17%

Encourage your school community to get the bivalent vaccine to help guard against outbreaks and severe illness caused by COVID-19. The bivalent booster is now available for ages 6 months and older

Find a booster here.

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A COVID-19 virus on a blue background with the words: New Omicron Subvariants

Flu activity is still high. BD Triplex can help.

Although hospitalizations have dipped over the past month, we are still seeing high flu activity in Washington state with several months left in the flu season

Here’s where we stand as we start the New Year:

We’re only half way through a historic flu season. It’s not too late to add BD Triplex to your school testing strategy.

BD Veritor Plus Triplex (SARS-CoV2, Flu A+B) or “BD Triplex” is a point-of-care rapid antigen test that can help stop the spread of respiratory illnesses by detecting both COVID-19 and Flu A & B with a single sample.

DOH has already approved over 35,000 BD Triplex tests for 118 Washington school districts and private schools who ordered through the Learn to Return program. 

Here’s how you can get started with BD Triplex:

BD Triplex is authorized under the PREP Act allowing schools to order, distribute, and administer these tests.

Reach out to your L2R Program Manager for help onboarding this new test.

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Know your COVID-19 community levels

County levels for Washington state as of Thursday, January 5, 2023.

Only one Washington county, Asotin County, has a COVID-19 community level of medium, according to the CDC. All other counties have a low COVID-19 community level.

  • Masking and screening testing are recommended best practices when your community level is high.
  • Masking is recommended for high-risk individuals when your community level is medium or high.

    How are community levels determined? 

    The CDC uses data on weekly case rates, hospitalizations, and hospital capacity (% of inpatient beds used by COVID-19 patients) to determine COVID-19 Community Levels for each county. Learn more about how the CDC calculates community levels here.

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    Learn MATH with Swab & Jab! 

    What do Swab and Jab love? Coloring, math, and reminding their friends how to reduce the spread of COVID-19!

    Download their latest coloring book here!

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    RSV recedes and flu peaks as a new COVID variant shoots ‘up like a rocket’

    NPR, 06 January 2023. The rate at which the coronavirus is being detected in wastewater, which has become a bellwether for the pandemic, has tripled or quadrupled in many parts of the U.S. in recent weeks, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator says. COVID-19 hospitalizations have jumped 70%, he says. And 300 to 400 people are dying every day from COVID-19.

    The XBB.1.5 variant is taking over on the East Coast. Will it happen in California too?

    Los Angeles Times, 05 January 2023. While it sounds repetitive to describe every up-and-coming new subvariant in superlative terms — more transmissible than ever before, now with unprecedented ability to evade immunity — that’s just evolution at work, said Dr. Tim Brewer, an infectious-disease physician and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at UCLA.

    Flu and RSV on the decline in Washington state, Covid trajectory unclear

    KUOW, 04 January 2023. The latest summary, which covers the week ending Christmas Eve, showed fewer lab-confirmed cases and the percentage of hospital visits shrinking. That drop-off comes as little surprise to Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington’s state epidemiologist for communicable diseases. “So this happens every single year,” Lindquist said. “No one really understands it. We get this cyclical nature of all our respiratory viruses, with a sharp rise — usually later in the season — and then a sharp drop after that.” Lindquist says historical trends tell us a second peak is likely as the winter goes on.

    Flu Update: 14,000 Deaths, but Declining Activity

    US News, 09 January 2023. Outpatient surveillance data available through the CDC shows that 6.1% of roughly 2 million patient visits to a health care provider reported during the week ending Dec. 24 were for influenza-like illness. That’s a slight decrease from the week prior when the share was 6.3%, but still well above a national baseline of 2.5%.

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