As Washington’s COVID-19 outbreak entered a new phase this week, state and local officials are quickly mustering resources to ensure systems, institutions and individuals are braced for a potential surge in diagnoses.
While the first priority remains to slow the spread of the virus, officials must continue to be as transparent as possible to assuage public concerns about this unsettling development.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Saturday. King County Executive Dow Constantine followed suit on Sunday, ordering the purchase of a motel for patient isolation, which officials expect to be open by weeks’ end. This is a wise use of resources for the county, which has been the scene of most of the state’s diagnoses, including five of the state’s six COVID-19-related deaths as of Monday afternoon.
The state Public Health Lab in Shoreline started testing for the virus last week, enabling same-day results, Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman told Senate Ways and Means committee members at a Monday morning briefing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has largely addressed earlier problems with testing availability and reliability.
Health-care providers will receive resources from the strategic national stockpile of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, Wiesman said. State and local health officials are working with health systems, school leaders and private businesses to ensure preparedness and discuss potential closures.
Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, introduced a bill that would authorize a $100 million transfer from the state rainy day fund to the disaster response account for response and recovery efforts. His bill would require the Office of Financial Management to provide monthly updates on how the money is being spent.
Much is still unknown about how this novel form of coronavirus will affect the region. As testing becomes more widely available, it is likely the numbers will surge.
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In the meantime, it remains important as ever for individuals to do their part to slow the virus’ spread.
MORE INFORMATION: Washington State Department of Health hotline for questions about coronavirus: 800-525-0127 and press #.
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