Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on coronavirus: ‘We’re all in this together’
OLYMPIA, Wash – Washington Governor Jay Inslee stressed the importance of relying on science and also common sense hygiene Monday when updating the status of the novel coronavirus in Washington.
Health officials at the governor’s news conference said Washington has 18 confirmed cases; 14 are in King County and four in Snohomish County. Six people in those counties have died from the virus as of Monday afternoon.
Gov. Inslee expressed his condolences to the families of those who have died and those who continue to recover.
The state is testing other suspected cases, including one in Spokane County and one in Grant County.
Gov. Inslee said he has asked the state legislature to designate $100 million from this year’s budget to help combat the spread of the virus. The legislature is discussing that in a variety of meetings this week.
Gov. Inslee said as of now, the state is not asking for the cancellation of large events, but says people need to start preparing if that does happen. That includes preparing backup childcare if necessary.
The biggest message of Monday’s news conference from Gov. Inslee and Washington Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman: take basic hygiene steps to stop the spread, including washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, coughing and sneezing into a tissue and sanitizing surfaces.
Also, staying away from other people if you’re sick.
“We’ve all gone to work when we’re sick,” Gov. Inslee said. “That needs to stop now.” Inslee said he took his own advice and stayed home from work when he had a cough last week.
Gov. Inslee and Dr. Wieseman said the state is increasing testing capacity, which could lead to more cases being announced this week.
The state’s Public Health Laboratory is Shoreline can now test 100 cases per day. The University of Washington will be able to test cases this week as well.
Gov. Inslee said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a team on the ground in King County, specifically investigating cases at a nursing home there.
Dr. Wiesman said most people who contract the virus will only have a mild illness, but that people with chronic health conditions are at risk for serious complications. For that reason, he suggests using common sense and, for example, not visiting a loved one in a nursing home or hospital that has a fragile immune system.
“We can all be leaders in the effort against this virus,” Gov. Inslee said. “In fact, some of the most important leaders are not public health workers.”
The state school superintendent said the state does not have the authority to order the shutdown of schools or school districts. Generally speaking, that authority lies with local health districts. Schools and districts can decide to close their own schools.
State health officials say it’s preferred for people to quarantine/isolate themselves in their own home to prevent transmission of the virus. The state is also looking into what facilities in the state may be able to handle patients in isolation.
Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center is one of a handful of medical facilities nationwide certified to handle this type of isolation. Of four patients brought here initially for treatment, two went home over the weekend.
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