$100 million sought from state Legislature for coronavirus response

More than 200 people under public health supervision in state

OLYMPIA — Public health officials have asked the state Legislature for $100 million for a coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak in the state.

Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman said Monday that the state is 42 days into its response to the outbreak and there have been 18 confirmed cases of the virus in King and Snohomish counties.

By Monday, six people had died of the virus in Western Washington.

According to Wiesman, 231 people were under public health supervision as of Monday for displaying symptoms.

Wiesman said this is a “very dynamic situation, moving very quickly,” and right now the focus is on slowing the spread of the virus so the already strained health care systems can keep up.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control has developed a testing kit that allows for one-day results.

Wiesman said the state has the capacity to test about 100 people a day using the kits but expects up to 5 million tests to be available nationwide in the coming weeks.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, pointed out that each testing kit currently costs $2,500.

Wiesman said local health departments are on the front lines of the issue. He said localities are covering the cost with the expectation of being reimbursed in the future. He said about $3.5 million has been spent in response to the viral outbreak so far.

Wiesman said projected costs of the outbreak are difficult to predict because officials still do not know how long the outbreak will last.

Wiesman requested $100 million in the next biennium for the public health system and to help increase hospital capacity in the event of an infection surge.

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, proposed Senate Bill 6696 on Monday, hours before the fiscal cutoff, which would grant the $100 million requested for outbreak response from the state’s emergency rainy day fund.

“A public health crisis is exactly the kind of event that justifies dipping into the ‘rainy day fund,’ ” O’Ban said in a written statement. “We want to act quickly to make sure response and recovery efforts are not delayed by a lack of funding.”

Wiesman said information is still being collected and studied by health experts to understand how the disease spreads, but he said the coronavirus has on average a five-day incubation period between when the virus is contracted and when symptoms appear.

Wiesman said the elderly, extremely young and those with underlying health issues will be the most adversely affected populations, similar to influenza.

He also said the virus can live on surfaces and, with perfect temperature and humidity conditions, could live on a surface for a few days. This raises the risk of port workers contracting the virus from an item or surface shipped from overseas.

Jaime Bodden, managing director at the Washington State Association of Local Public Health Officials, said the state’s response will have to be coordinated between local, tribal, state and federal agencies and health departments.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reported at least 14 schools are temporarily closed due to outbreak concerns.

“We can succeed in this if we make our decisions based off of calm confidence that is based on science and rational thought,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a press conference Monday.

________

This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

More in Politics

President Biden announced on Twitter on Sunday that he will no longer seek re-election. (Eric Lee/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of presidential race, endorses Harris

Ending re-election campaign after intense pressure from own party

Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, left, and Democrats Patrick DePoe, center, and Kevin Van De Wege, all candidates for state Commissioner of Public Lands, met before the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday to discuss their priorities for leading the Department of Natural Resources. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)
Fires are top priority for Commissioner of Public Lands hopefuls

Candidates want to increase state harvests

League of Women Voters sets candidate forum schedule

Hopefuls for state seats, county commissioner position invited to debate

From left to right, State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, Port Angeles attorney Graham Ralston and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, all candidates for Washington’s 6th Congressional District, appear before the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday to answer questions about their priorities for serving in Congress. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)
Congress hopefuls meet for a forum

Candidates to focus on bipartisanship

Clallam PUD candidates cite costs as top priority

Three hopefuls line up for six-year board position

More candidates join local races

Third declares for state Senate seat

Packed races begin to emerge

Political hopefuls file intent to run

Heather Dudley-Nollette.
Bayside director to run for Jefferson County commissioner

Heather Dudley-Nollette seeks District 1 seat

Port Angeles City Council hopefuls Kate Dexter and Travis Berglund answer questions during a Port Angeles Business Association forum Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles mayor to run for county commission

Dexter has supported climate action plan, affordable housing

Emily Randall, left, and Hilary Franz.
Stalwarts take sides in race for Kilmer’s seat

A growing constellation of Democratic Party influencers are choosing sides in the… Continue reading

Online learning keeps rising among state’s K-12 students

Online learning for Washington’s public school kids is here to stay. That’s… Continue reading

Jefferson County turnout tops in state

More than half registered voters handed in ballots