Gov. Inslee announces state’s contact tracing plan

Jay Inslee (1)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee announced Washington’s new contact tracing initiative on Tuesday.

The statewide plan will be implemented through partnerships between the state department of health and local health districts.

Health experts believe contact tracing will play a huge role in stopping the spread of the virus. It keeps track of those who are sick and helps determine who they may have been exposed.

If you test positive, you’ll be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

A contact tracer will call or text you each day to see how you’re doing. They’ll also reach out to everyone you’ve recently been within six feet of for more than 10 minutes.

If one family member tests positive, everyone in the house will have to stay home, too. That’s why a contact tracer will be there to help.

“If they can’t get a friend to do their grocery shopping, we will help get them groceries in some fashion,” Inslee said. “If they need pharmaceuticals to be picked up, we can help make sure they get their pharmaceuticals.”

READ: What is contact tracing? Local health experts say it’s crucial to stop spread of COVID-19

RELATED: Team of 25 contact tracers ‘ready to go’ in Spokane County

Inslee said contact tracing will help the state transition from one stage of reopening its economy to another.

“We think of this as a smart weapon against this virus,” he said.

The contact tracing process will be conducted through five steps:

  1. Quarantine upon first symptoms
  2. Test widely
  3. Isolate quickly
  4. Identify contacts
  5. Quarantine contacts

Inslee said there will be steps to ensure the public’s privacy if they are affected. Data will only be accessible to public health officials, it will not be shared and contacts will not be told the name of the person who may have exposed them.

Inslee said the state has not had issues with people refusing a test or refusing to self-isolate after being told about a close contact testing positive.

“As far as refusal, it just shouldn’t come to that and it really hasn’t,” Inslee said.

Dr. Bob Lutz with the Spokane Regional Health District said the same of residents in Spokane County.

“Is it possible to enforce? Yes,” Lutz said. “Do I want to enforce it? From the stand point of what can be done, no.”

Contact tracing is already underway across the state, including in Eastern Washington. Inslee said there will be 1,371 contact tracers fully trained and ready to go by the end of the week. Of those, 351 will be members of the National Guard, 390 are employees from the Department of Licensing and 630 are state and local health professionals.

The information given to these contact tracers will stay private.

If you test positive, your close contacts won’t be told who exposed them to COVID-19. The state also won’t ask for your social security number or immigration status.

READ: Inslee, Washington leaders join Western States to request $1 trillion in congressional aid

RELATED: Spokane health board approves request to ask Gov. Inslee to speed up county’s reopening