Inslee announces plan to expand testing, offer free masks in effort to tackle omicron surge

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Ted S. Warren

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., before signing a bill into law that prohibits openly carrying guns and other weapons at the state Capitol and protests statewide.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Governor Jay Inslee on Wednesday announced a series of efforts aimed at containing the spread of the omicron variant. 

The governor hopes to tackle the recent surge through expanded testing, mass vaccinations and free masks. Inslee did not announce any rollbacks, restrictions or closures as a result of the omicron surge. 

The Inslee administration has received 800,000 at-home tests with another 2 million expected this week. 

The governor’s office plans to make these tests available in a variety of ways, including sending them to schools and local health departments for distribution. 

The state has also partnered with CareEvolution and Amazon to expand testing infrastructure and create a web portal so families can order tests directly to their homes at no charge. The portal is not yet live but is expected to launch within the next few weeks. 

The Department of Health is also working to tackle the COVID surge by expanding booster vaccine availability. The state recently increased capacity at a FEMA mobile clinic in King County and intends to add another high-throughput site in Northwest Washington the week of January 18. 

Lastly, the governor announced an effort to provide masks at no cost to Washingtonians. Inslee said the state intends to release about 10 million masks, including KN95 and surgical masks, into communities, including K-12 schools, in the next few weeks. 

Inslee said the state will also use local and state emergency management distribution channels, local health departments and the K-12 infrastructure to make masks available quickly for those who need them.

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