Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Normally, I would be sending an update on the legislative session, which ended last Thursday after 60 days. However, most people are concerned about the coronavirus and where to find resources. So I will update you later on session activities, but for today, let's discuss this virus and where you can get more information.
What we know now (Monday, March 16)
News about the coronavirus continues to change by the hour. Here's what we know as of early Monday afternoon, March 16:
Counties reporting the virus
- The state Department of Health announced 60 new cases Sunday, bringing the state total to 769 cases, including 42 deaths. Most of those cases and fatalities are in King County. There are four confirmed cases in Yakima County and three in Clark County. None have been reported in Klickitat and Skamania counties. You can get the latest information on the location of confirmed cases on the Washington State Department of Health website. Their call center is open 6 a.m. – 10 p.m., seven days a week, and can be reached at 1-800-525-0127. Go here to get information from your local health departments and districts.
Dining, entertainment facility closures
- Today, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a statewide emergency proclamation to temporarily shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational facilities. The governor said restaurants will be allowed to provide take-out and delivery services, but no in-person dining will be permitted. The ban will not apply to grocery stores and pharmacies. It takes effect at midnight tonight and will be in place through March 31. Watch the governor's news conference here. Go here for a resource list for impacted Washington businesses and workers.
- In addition, the governor is prohibiting all gatherings with more than 50 participants. Gatherings with less than 50 participants are also prohibited unless previously announced criteria for public health and social distancing are met. Read the governor's announcement here.
- On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all public and private schools in Washington state to close, effective tomorrow, March 17. Those closures will continue through Friday, April 24, subject to extension. Get the latest information on school closures from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The governor also issued a proclamation to prohibit all public and private higher education facilities from holding in-person classes statewide.
Statewide resources from the Legislature
- On Thursday, the Legislature approved House Bill 2965, which uses $175 million from the rainy day fund for state and local agencies to fight the disease and another $25 million in aid to businesses that have shut down because of the outbreak. The bill also will allow the state Board of Education to grant emergency waivers to high school students who won't meet certain graduation requirements if their schools are closed for extended periods.
Unemployment benefits for affected workers
- Also on Thursday, the state Employment Security Department announced expanded benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19. Go here to see who qualifies.
- The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has developed a list of financial resources for Washington consumers impacted by COVID-19. Go here to view that list.
- Health insurers have been ordered to waive deductibles and co-pays for coronavirus testing. You can get more information about how different types of insurance coverage may be affected here. For Washingtonians without health insurance, the Washington Health Benefits Exchange opened a limited-time special enrollment period through April 8. Go here for more information.
- As of today, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in any of the state's four veterans homes. You can get more information about veterans homes and how they are affected here.
Protecting yourself and your family from coronavirus
On Thursday, my seatmate, Rep. Chris Corry sent out an email update on how you can protect yourself and your family from the virus. I highly encourage you to read it here.
Here are additional resources:
- CDC Coronavirus Information
- Yakima Health District
- Public Health – Seattle & King County Coronavirus Updates
- Public Health – Snohomish County Coronavirus Updates
- Local Public Health Offices around WA
We can make it through this crisis together
As I've traveled through the district and met with citizens in our local communities and across the state, I've found Washingtonians to be caring and resilient people, especially in times of crisis. Our communities pull together and help each other through tough times. This will be no different.
Aside from the virus itself and economic disruptions across our state, there tends to be misinformation, especially in this age of social media — all of which contributes to more anxiety and uncertainty, and which we should avoid. Please stay informed using the official links I've provided. My office stands ready to help if you have difficulty navigating through state agencies during this crisis. Above all, take all the precautions necessary to stay safe. My contact information is below if you need to reach out. You may also call my legislative cell phone: (509) 439-7426.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you!
Honored to serve you,