26 January 2023

Vol 5, Issue 2


COVID-19 in Washington. Variants and recent trends.

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

Recovery: Finding a Way Forward After Crisis

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Expired COVID-19 tests. When are they ok to use?


Flu activity is down in Washington. Here are the latest numbers.

Six holiday pumpkins of different colors seen from above.

Know your COVID-19 community level. Are you low, medium, or high? 

Levity and learning

Swab and Jab Learning Club! How does COVID-19 spread?

The More you Know

COVID-19 News

COVID-19 in Washington. Variants and recent trends.




The so-called Kraken variant is the most transmissible yet, but may not cause more severe disease. 

Here’s what we know about XBB.1.5 at this point in the year.

Related: What to know about XBB.1.5, a new and highly transmissible COVID-19 subvariant

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

Recovery: Finding a Way Forward After Crisis

Wednesday, February 8, 2023   

1 – 2:30pm PST 

A critical step in moving past crises and improving emergency response is listening to the people who were directly involved. What went wrong, what went well, why did it happen the way that it did, and what would we change next time? Conversations about our pandemic experience, personal and work-related, can help us identify lessons learned, collectively process the trauma of the last three years, and inform better emergency operations for the future. 

On Wednesday, February 8th, Drs. Kira Mauseth and Tona McGuire will introduce us to this topic in an event called Recovery: Finding a Way Forward After Crisis. During this session, they will discuss the science of recovery and highlight the lasting benefits that these types of conversations can have for schools, educators, and staff.  In the context of the pandemic, this means actively listening to those who were “in the trenches”, giving them the space to tell their stories, and drawing out best practices so the community is better prepared for future crises.  During the Learning Network event, participants will learn how to facilitate these sessions with their schools with a focus on processing personal experiences and moving forward. 

In the weeks following the event, attendees will be invited to join smaller discussions with Drs. Mauseth and McGuire to help them organize and facilitate these sessions with their teams based on their own unique circumstances.

Watch Drs. Mauseth and McGuire in action during our last Learning Network event, Living in Times of Response and Recovery: Communication and Engagement Strategies for Ongoing Pandemic Response.

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COVID-19 rapid antigen tests laid out in pattern on light blue background.

Expired COVID-19 tests. When are they okay to use?

The expiration date on the box may not always be accurate. Here are answers to your questions about using expired rapid antigen tests. 

Download the full FAQ sheet from DOH (including versions in 36 different languages!).

Can I use an expired COVID-19 test? Yes. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released an official approval for the use of expired tests so long as the test passes the built-in quality control. The quality control process for many rapid antigen tests is simply making sure the line next to the “C” printed on the test cartridge shows up when the specimen is added. If the quality control process fails, you should discard the entire box of tests.

Some COVID-19 tests receive shelf-life extensions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can look up the list of tests with extended shelf lives to see which have an updated expiration date. But even if the updated expiration date is in the past, so long as the test passes the built-in quality control, it is good to use.

Note that this applies to all rapid antigen tests available through Learn to Return including BD Veritor Plus Triplex (SARS-CoV2, Flu A+B), the test that detects both COVID-19 and Flu A & B with a single sample.

How does a test receive an extended shelf life? Manufacturers of COVID-19 tests are required to do studies that look at how long a test can be used. The FDA tracks this data to approve extended expiration dates. Shelf-life extensions for COVID-19 tests are normal as more data comes in about how long these tests last.

Questions about using expired tests? Reach out to us at schools@healthcommonsproject.org.

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

Flu activity is down in Washington. Here are the latest numbers.

After peaking early in the season, flu activity has been slowing down in Washington over the past several weeks. Here are the most recent trends:

Flu season isn’t over yet. Be prepared by adding 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 38,000 BD Triplex tests for over 110 Washington school districts and private schools who ordered through the Learn to Return program. 

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

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 19, 2023.

All Washington State counties have a low COVID-19 community level.

  • Masking is recommended for high-risk individuals when your community level is medium or high.
    • Masking and screening testing are recommended best practices when your community level is 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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    Swab & Jab Learning Club!  

    This week in the Science Club, we’re going to talk about how the COVID-19 virus spreads!

    Viruses will always be a part of our lives, but if we know how to keep ourselves and our communities safe – we can prevent the spread of new viruses.

    Explorers (Grades 1-3)

    Click to access the PDF outlining how COVID-19 spreads for grades 1-3!

    Seekers (Grades 4-6)

    Click to access the PDF outlining how COVID-19 spreads for grades 4-6!

    Adventurers (Grades 7+)

    Click to access the PDF outlining how COVID-19 spreads for grades 7+!

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    How are rapid COVID tests holding up now that the pandemic enters its fourth year? 

    NPR, 19 January 2023 

    Is the Omicron variant tripping up at-home tests? For the most part, the answer is no. That’s because as the virus evolves, scientists are mainly seeing changes in its spike protein, but the rapid antigen tests don’t detect that spike protein. Instead, they detect the nucleocapsid protein, which is the protein directly encapsulating the viral RNA. This interior protein hasn’t changed much as the virus has mutated, so the rapid tests can still detect it.

    A positive test is almost always true. But a negative “does not rule out” a COVID-19 infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If someone tests negative, they’re supposed to take another antigen test 48 hours later to see if it turns positive. And if that person has a known COVID exposure or symptoms, the FDA recommends a third test 48 hours after that. The best way to use the tests is to know their limits and follow instructions for retesting when you get a negative result.

    FDA lays out annual COVID shot plan similar to flu

    Seattle Times, 23 January 2023

    Americans will get a clearer idea of how often they’ll roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 shots when advisers to U.S. regulators meet Thursday to discuss an immunization schedule that looks more like the one used for flu. The plan would have health officials meet each June to review which strains of the virus should be included in COVID shots to be deployed no later than September of the same year.

    Washington state marks three years of COVID

    Axios Seattle, 20 January 2023

    It’s been three years since the first known case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported in Washington state. State health officials and local scientists say that while we’re in a far better place than we were, COVID isn’t going away.

    Long Covid Is Keeping Significant Numbers of People Out of Work, Study Finds

    New York Times, 23 January 2023

    Long Covid is having a significant effect on America’s work force, preventing substantial numbers of people from going back to work while others continue needing medical care long after returning to their jobs. During the first two years of the pandemic, about 71 percent of people experiencing long Covid either required continuing medical treatment or were unable to work for six months or more. More than a year after contracting the coronavirus, 18 percent of long Covid patients had still not returned to work, more than three-fourths of them younger than 60.

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