Inslee: Coronavirus cases could grow to 64,000 by May if action isn’t taken

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee said up to 64,000 people could be infected with COVID-19 in Washington state in the next two months if actions are not taken to prevent its spread.

The number of confirmed cases sits at 162, but health experts believe it could be above 1,000 currently. Inslee said the number of infected people could double within the next week or so if action is not taken.

“Unfortunately, since we haven’t tested 7 million Washingtonians, we know that there are many, many other people today in Washington state who have the virus who’ve not been diagnosed and have no idea, they have no symptoms at this moment,” Inslee said at a press conference Tuesday. “If we’re gonna stop this epidemic or seriously slow it down, we need to look at what’s coming in Washington state, not just what’s here today.”

In an effort to stop the spread, Inslee and state health officials introduced new guidelines for nursing homes, and announced an expansion of state policies to help Washington workers and businesses.

Inslee addressed the public’s reponsibility to protect those who are more susceptible to contracting the virus, including the elderly and immuno-compromised.

“The risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 appears to be higher in people 60 years or older and in those with chronic health conditions,” Inslee said. “And we know there is an increased risk among people while live in congregated settings, such as long-term care facilities. We need to protect our older adults, and these rules will help.”

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities must now limits residents’ visitors to one per day. Those visitors must be adults and visits must take place in their rooms. Inslee said these steps do not apply to end-of-life situations.

Facilities must also take precautionary measures, like encouraging employees and visitors to wear personal protective equipment, distancing themselves socially or visiting in designated locations. Visitors must also sign in when visiting nursing homes or care facilities.

Employees and volunteers must also be screened, not tested, for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift. Those in nursing homes under an order of isolation must also stay isolated in their rooms away from others.

Inslee also used the Tuesday press conference to address the economic impact of the coronavirus on Washington workers and businesses.  He announced an expansion of state policies to help those workers and businesses financially impacted by coronavirus.

“If a worker falls seriously ill and is forced to quit, they may qualify for Paid Family Medical Leave while ill under the existing program. Once recovered and available for work, they may apply for unemployment benefits,” said Inslee. “We have to realize we have a long road ahead of us.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, a reporter brought up this weekend’s Seattle Sounders soccer game at CenturyLink Field, which drew a crowd of more than 30,000 people. That reporter brought up the possibility of putting restrictions on sporting events. In response, the governor said he would not be shocked to have news on that in the coming days.

In an advisory Tuesday night, Inslee announced he will meet with the media again Wednesday to “announce new community strategies and social distancing plans in order to contain COVID-19.”

WATCH LIVE: Gov. Inslee addresses impact of COVID-19 outbreak on Washington workers, businesses

Posted by 4 News Now on Tuesday, March 10, 2020