State of Reform’s return to in-person events


DJ Wilson


As we get closer and closer to the 2022 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference I wanted to take a moment to explain our choice to return to in-person events.

I don’t believe that we are putting people at risk. In fact, I think we are providing a unique benefit that will help people. Please follow my thinking here.


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First, we are following and exceeding all of the public health guidelines from Seattle-King County. For example, we will not allow a negative test to take the place of proof of vaccination. We are also considering having everyone be tested on site the day of the conference. We will of course follow masking guidelines.

As you know, the data is clear and compelling: vaccination protects from hospitalization and complications from disease. There will always be some level of risk from congregating in public settings. But, for vaccinated individuals, the level of risk for complications or hospitalization is very, very low.

According to recent DOH reporting, during the worst part of the Delta variant, the case rate for fully vaccinated people ages 35-64 was 485.9 per 100,000 fully vaccinated individuals. That is .49% of fully vaccinated individuals over a four week period. Other demographics are even lower.

The rate of hospitalization for fully vaccinated individuals aged 35-64 over a four-week period is 30x lower than the infection rate at 0.0132%

On the other hand, anxiety and depression remain at epidemic levels, with social isolation as a primary driver.

According to the US Census Bureau Pulse Survey, of 5.3m Washingtonians self-reporting in the last two weeks (Sept 29-Oct 11), 3.2m Washingtonians report “Several days” or more per week of “Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge. That is 60.4% of respondents in our state. Of the same set of respondents, 2.63m Washingtonians report “Several days” or more of “Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.” This is 49.6% of Washington residents. Meanwhile, 10.2% say they feel this way “Nearly every day.”

Why is that?

According to a study out this month in the Lancet, when looking at datasets across the globe in what is the first such study of its kind, it’s clear that the increase in anxiety and depression draws from an increase level of social isolation. Moreover, the greatest impact is felt in relatively younger or middle-aged individuals, who are suffering increased rates of anxiety and depression while also having relatively lower rates of hospitalization and complications compared to other demographic cohorts.

I think we see that Washingtonians are responding for the need to get out and see others. According to recent data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Washingtonians have almost fully returned to their pre-COVID rates of mobility. In other words, individuals have made the decision they are comfortable moving about. We see that in Dept. of Commerce data, as well, showing that folks are far more comfortable leaving the home than they were previous to the vaccine’s arrival.

Finally, when we asked our Convening Panel members about this question, there was overwhelming interest and excitement about returning to in-person. These are, of course, health care leaders, professionals and providers. These are folks who have assessed the risk from a public health perspective, and offered that they think it’s time we move back to an in-person setting.

So, taken in totality – that the risk of meeting in person is low, that the risk of anxiety and depression from social isolation is high, and that it appears through quantitative and qualitative feedback that people are ready to return to in-person – we have decided to host this event in person this year. We think we can do it in a safe, smart way, that helps re-connect members of our community with one another – something I think is clear that we need and want.

We look forward to seeing you in person on January 6th at the Westin Seattle.