County remains in Phase 3 despite jump in cases

J&J vaccine use paused after 6 cases of ‘rare, severe’ blood clotting in women

Clark County will remain in Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery COVID-19 reopening plan through at least May 3.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday, April 12, that three counties — Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman — would roll back to Phase 2 after not meeting the state’s Phase 3 metrics.

To remain in Phase 3, large counties like Clark County must have fewer than 200 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over the most recent 14-day period or have fewer than five new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the most recent seven-day period.

Inslee announced April 9 that he was updating the criteria for remaining in Phase 3, and that counties would only move down one phase if they had failed both the new cases and hospitalizations metrics. Prior to the governor’s April 9 announcement, failing just one of those metrics would have rolled a county back into Phase 2.

“Given the incredible progress on vaccinations and our focus protecting people from severe illness, we believe analyzing and requiring both metrics together is the right approach to make sure we’re considering the connection between COVID cases and our medical system and hospitalizations,” Inslee said April 9.

The announcement came one day after the governor’s April 8 press conference, during which he announced concern that COVID-19 numbers were rising throughout the state and that “several counties” were in danger of moving back to the more restrictive Phase 2.

“The reason for this rebound is, we believe, a combination of two things: more variants in our state, including one variant that is more transmissible and (possibly) more fatal, and we are concerned that we all have let down our guard to some degree. More folks aren’t wearing a mask, aren’t social distancing,” Inslee said. “The vaccine is great, but if these numbers skyrocket, that vaccine is not going to bail us out. And we do not want our state to get into that situation.”

Inslee said April 8 that state partners had given more than 3.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Washingtonians, and that more than 20 percent of the state was now fully vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus that has claimed nearly three million lives worldwide, including 562,000 death in the United States and 5,380 deaths in Washington state.

COVID-19 numbers have continued to increase in Washington, including in Clark County, since counties moved into the less-restrictive Phase 3 in late March. On Monday, April 12, Clark County announced it had 156 new confirmed cases over the past weekend, with an average of 52 new cases per day Friday through Sunday, April 9-11.

All Washingtonians age 16 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday, April 15. To find a vaccination appointment, visit vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov or call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127. For more information about the mass vaccination sites in Washington, including the Ridgefield site in Clark County, visit doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/VaccineInformation/MassVaccinationSites.

The state will reevaluate counties’ COVID-19 metrics on May 3. If a county fails both of its Phase 3 metrics, it would move to Phase 2 the following Friday. Inslee said state officials hope Washingtonians will continue to get vaccinated and take COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing face coverings and physically distancing from others.

“These metric trends are driven by the virus and we must continue to do everything we can to sharpen our focus and keep COVID-19 activity down. We are so close to the end of the tunnel here — we have made tremendous progress and we must keep our focus,” Inslee said. “It’s like a football game; we have done 95 yards on a 99 yard-drive. We can’t let up now.”

Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused after ‘rare, severe blood clotting’ in women

Inslee said he is optimistic about the vaccination rates, but still has “a big concern” about unvaccinated seniors, who are at higher risk of suffering severe complications or dying from COVID-19.

“There are over 305,000 (Washingtonians) over the age of 65 who have still not been vaccinated, even though they’ve been eligible for several months now,” Inslee said April 8. “As long as we have thousands of seniors unvaccinated, we will continue to see deaths throughout our state.”

The governor urged Washingtonians to talk to their family members and urge them to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, adding that 90 percent of physicians have had the vaccine “because they know it’s safe.”

“I am hopeful all of us will become advocates for our loved ones to take the vaccine,” Inslee said.

On Tuesday, April 13, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended halting innoculations using the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) “one shot” COVID-19 vaccine, after six individuals reported having symptoms of a rare but severe form of blood clotting within two weeks of receiving the vaccine.

All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48, with one reported death.

The Washington State Department of Health and Oregon Health Authority both asked vaccine providers to immediately stop using the J&J vaccine on Tuesday, after the CDC and FDA recommendation came out. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not impacted by the pause. The J&J vaccine has been given to nearly 7 million Americans, including about 149,000 Washingtonians.

The CDC convened a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday, April 14, to further review the cases and assess their potential significance. Both the CDC and FDA said it is important for health care providers to be aware that the form of blood clotting associated with the J&J vaccine requires a different form of treatment.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” the federal agencies said in a joint statement released April 13. “COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.”