washington department of health

Derek Wang / NW News Network

Washington state on Monday launched a coronavirus exposure alert tool for smartphone users statewide. Washington joined more than a dozen other states further east using an automated, anonymous notification system to aid in the fight against virus spread. Oregon and California are expected to roll out similar smartphone-enabled exposure alerts statewide soon, too.

Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

Lauri Jones has been working in public health in Washington’s Okanogan County for 17 years.

But after repeated threats to her safety, she recently got a new security system for her home.

“I still find myself sometimes looking over my shoulder,” Jones says. “Especially if I walk out of the building and it’s getting obviously dark earlier.”

She’s not leaving her post as the community health director. But her colleague Dr. John McCarthy is in December. He says the workload has become too heavy.

Derek Wang / NW News Network

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, it's now increasingly apparent that 2020 will be remembered for an unusually high death toll -- not just from COVID-19. In the medical field, deaths above what you would normally expect are called "excess deaths." Even after you subtract out COVID-19 casualties, many thousands more Oregonians, Idahoans and Washingtonians have gone to an early grave this year compared to a typical year.

Courtesy Office of Gov. Jay Inslee

The director of public health in the third most populous county in the United States will be Washington's next secretary of health. 

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced the appointment of Dr. Umair A. Shah to lead the state Department of Health beginning on December 21.

Since 2013, Shah has been executive director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas. He will replace outgoing Secretary John Wiesman who has served in the position since 2013. Previously, Wiesman announced his plan to leave the post at the end of the year to take a teaching job in North Carolina. 

Courtesy of Susan Weber

The carefully followed death toll from COVID-19 may not fully capture the loss of life during the pandemic. Analysis of state and federal statistics for deaths from all causes shows hundreds of additional deaths above normal levels this spring in the Pacific Northwest. Some or many of those may actually be missed COVID deaths.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Washington state leaders are expressing hesitancy about opening the door to the final phase of the governor's four-phase reopening plan. By the end of this week, eight rural counties will have spent the minimum three weeks in Phase 3 and can then theoretically apply to lift most remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Williamborg / Wikimedia - tinyurl.com/y9geafwv

The county-by-county reopening of Washington state is picking up steam. The state Secretary of Health on Friday approved four additional places where closed businesses can now restart immediately if they have safety plans in place. At least a half-dozen more counties -- backed by antsy business communities -- are queuing up close behind.

Washington Military Department

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has instructed the state Department of Health (DOH) to prepare to test all nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19 in the coming weeks, according to the physician leading the state’s testing strategy.

“Last week, Governor Inslee gave us the directive to test everyone, both resident[s] and staff in the nursing homes in the state,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos in an interview on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

Previously, the state's goal was to test all residents and staff in facilities where someone had tested positive -- something that has not yet been achieved, according to a Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) spokesperson. 

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

As the state of Washington’s epidemiologist for communicable diseases, Dr. Scott Lindquist’s job is to study and try to control the spread of disease.

But these days he’s operating more like a logistics officer in the military. His phone is blowing up with calls from local public health officials on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus. They’re asking for help in procuring the personal protective equipment (PPE) that healthcare workers need to test and treat patients.

UW Medicine

As the death toll from the novel coronavirus continues to rise, many people who feel sick are naturally concerned they might have the infection. Until now, a coronavirus test has been difficult to get locally because of limited capacity and strict rules for who qualifies. However, both of those restrictions may relax soon.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that his emergency powers would allow him to order the cancellation of large public gatherings to control the growing coronavirus outbreak in his state. However, he told reporters during a briefing in Olympia that he does not plan to use that authority at this time.

Northwest Tick Season Reaches Its Peak

May 2, 2018
CDC - tinyurl.com/y83ldq6m

As tick season reaches its peak in the Northwest, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control says diseases spread by tiny creatures like mosquitoes and ticks have tripled in the U.S. over the last 14 years.

Jon Connell / Flickr - tinyurl.com/y72ktat6

The state of Washington may soon follow Oregon and California and allow a third gender option on birth certificates. The proposal would let people change their gender from male or female to the non-binary designation of “X.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The top three nationally reported STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and they are all on the rise in the Northwest and across the nation.

Wayne Clifford / Washington Department of Health

In the last six years, about 10 confirmed cases of valley fever have popped up in Eastern Washington. And the state of Washington estimates there are even more exposures that haven’t been diagnosed.

Wayne Clifford / Washington Department of Health

The emergence of nine cases of a fungal infection known as Valley Fever in southeast Washington over the last five years has state and federal health officials concerned. This week, the state and the CDC are launching a $50,000 study.

Health officials across the Northwest are trying to figure out why they’re seeing a big upswing in the number of people with gonorrhea this year.