Apr 7, 2020
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 7
Washington Governor Jay Inslee held a press briefing on coronavirus today, April 7. Read the full transcript of his press conference here.
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Jay Inslee: (00:00)
… we reopen, we want to keep these small businesses going. Just to give you some ideas, some of the other work we’ve done, we’ve now dispersed $120 million out of the $200 million emergency fund allocated by the legislature. And of that, we’ve had $10 million go to our Department of Agriculture to purchase food and distribute food to other non-profits. We’ve had $5 million in our Department of Commerce to assist 29 of our federally-recognized tribes and $30 million to our Department of Health to cover state and local government costs associated with the outbreak. Those efforts are going to continue.
Jay Inslee: (00:45)
Lastly, I’d like to reiterate something we really need to do right now and that is to respond to the US census. You know, we’ve got a long recovery ahead of us and the more Washingtonians that answer the census forms, the more funds we will have available in the state of Washington to help on all of these services that we need across the board. So that’s one patriotic thing everybody can do is to answer that census. That’s going to help our state long term, big time.
Jay Inslee: (01:16)
We have some folks to answer questions or may speak; Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown, Clallam Economic Development Council Director Coleen McAleer and Executive Director of the State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs Toshiko Hasegawa.
Jay Inslee: (01:35)
Colleen, would you like to make some comments?
Yes. Thank you very much. Ghanaians like condense the last small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. They create a true feel of what a hometown means and are essential for our local economy. We know this grant is only going to help a very, very limited number of businesses, but it’s one element of a larger response. And the process will allow our advising teams to connect with businesses who need help right now and provide them with new sources. We have,
We’re pulling out all this stuff out so that this economic crisis will end as a superficial home rather than a fatal blow backing all of us for years to come. Our larger vendors and landlords in your Clallam County with your ability to delivery this different parenting or do we mean exactly that. Over the last couple of weeks that really been inspire the leadership that many people shown for those who are not as diverse, but this isn’t just generosity.
Since small businesses make up nearly half of our thinking is these businesses afloat. It’s just solid. For now, many businesses and kind of thing or maybe banks are accepting SBA loan app recycling technologies now that started making face shield for health care workers. Restaurants are serving lunches to the children and first responders. I’ve taken so many phone calls from business owners in tears these last couple of weeks, but when I share programs like this one, they always tell me that I brightened their day and now they feel that there’s a potential path for them to get through this.
So thank you very much Governor Inslee and Director Brown for your study and for providing these funds to small business owners across our state.
Toshiko now has a few remarks.
My name is Toshiko Hasegawa and as Governor Inslee mentioned, I am the executive director of Washington state’s commission on Asian Pacific American affairs. What CAFA does is it identifies an advantage the issues impacting ATA communities in Washington State. And we subsequently advise the governor and state agencies like commerce on programs that would impact our community.
you’ve learned of compounding challenges, isn’t there community members including AP-own businesses. And we know that Covid-related losses hit AK businesses earlier, even prior to the statewide closures due to unfair racial stigmas and the prejudicial perceptions that Asian businesses might be unclean or unsanitary.
And we know that business owners of all backgrounds who are limited English proficient have a hard time applying for support services and relief opportunities simply because so often these resources aren’t made available in multiple languages. HAFA has received clear and pointed input from community on how important it is that the state make its resources available in a way that is culturally appropriate and idiomatically accessible.
And that’s why the state is providing targeted assistance to people so that when they go online to access this grant page, they’ll be able to receive information in multiple languages, including some commonly spoken in Asian languages at the same time. And they get access to it in English. And in this way, English language learning business owners can get a fair bite at the apple.
Washington State is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse states in America and HAFA does commend the efforts to ensure that the much needed support services provided by the state is going to reach the businesses.
Jay Inslee: (05:55)
Thank you. We have a Director Lisa Brown. Lisa, did you make any comments or just stand for questions? Your call.
Jay Inslee: (06:03)
Okay. And we also have Susie Levein who’s leading our Plymouth security department, Herculean efforts to get unemployment compensation to people as quickly as humanly possible. And I believe she’ll stand for any questions. So with that, how about questions?
First we’ll go to Rachel or maybe . You’re going to make a decision whether to expand construction positive loud during the closure of the neck and then it you, you got into sales that we’ll see a horse get spike
Jay Inslee: (06:42)
Susie, why don’t you go ahead and answer that question first?
Rachel, could you say that again? I could barely hear you on that.
Okay. I just was wondering, looking ahead to Thursday’s update on unemployment claims, wondering if you have seen really numbers that give you a sense on whether we’re going to see a for significance by the assault last.
Thank you so much for asking that, Rachel. You know what report this Thursday last week’s numbers versus this week’s numbers were sort of generally a week, a week delay on that. I can tell you in terms of our call volumes, that our call volumes last week were down about 10 to 15%, so that is encouraging but that is also because of the mitigation efforts that we’ve put in place to equip people with better information.
I think the spike that you’ll really see in unemployment insurance numbers, the next big spike will happen the week of April week ending April 25th, because of our launch of the new pandemic unemployment assistance program that is slated to go live on the 18th. So I suspect that that will be when we see the next big spike. Right now it’s sort of leveling off.
Jay Inslee: (07:56)
as soon as he, could you just briefly describe some of your efforts to to be ready for that? To the extent humanly possible,
absolutely. I think it’s actually going to be in all of state government in all the state ever to be ready for what could be quite an influx of demand for one. Thereby if that those who are not currently eligible for unemployment insurance and who aren’t impacted by Coburg 19 will be eligible for this new pandemic on employment assistance plus anybody on unemployment insurance or to depend on the kind of employment assistance, get an additional $600 per week guided to their weekly benefits and are available to get an additional 13 weeks. We will launch that. Then we are doing a tremendous amount of education videos, Lebanon cars, outreach to the communities, outreach to people who are already on unemployment insurance. Basically the message is the more prepared you are and use our checklists and understand what you need.
And use our checklists and understand what you need. When you apply, the faster you’ll get your money. Right now our processing times are basically five to seven days, once somebody’s claim is approved and therefore we want to make sure that more people come into the system approved and ready before they call our phone lines and there’s a lot that people can find on our website at esd.wa.gov so we’re going to be hiring up more staff. We already have been and we are on a pace now of hiring about a hundred people every two weeks bringing in other state agencies to help us and working also now with different organizations to train their trainers to reach out to their employees before they go on standby or get [inaudible 00:09:53] so that we can help them smoothly go through the process.
Jay Inslee: (09:58)
Yeah, and I was just being briefed today by Susie on this. One of the things you’re going to see in the upcoming weeks is the ability to have a separate line to get questions answered so that we could free up other resources for people who actually wanted to make an application. We think that’s going to minimize the waiting time that people have to get question answers. And there’s quite a number of other things through technology the department is using to expedite this. This is a huge mountain to climb and I’m glad we’re climbing it as fast as humanly possible. The issue of construction, this is an extremely important industry in our state for so many different reasons and the industry is going to come back, roaring back as soon as we can in a safe way that does not jeopardize the progress we’ve made. And the thing about construction workers is we care about them because frequently they have to work in close proximity to people while they’re doing construction work.
Jay Inslee: (10:56)
I have a little familiarity of that having driven concrete trucks and run jack hammers and painted, and dump trucks, and my son’s in the construction industry, so we care about those workers, but we also care about not allowing them to become infected and transmit to their parents and their grandparents. So there’s a lot of reasons to care about this industry. So we will make the right decision. At the right time where we are able to expand the industry. There may be opportunities to do it in sort of steps. Where later in the game as we see more progress and bend this curve down further. There may and emphasize may be the ability to allow the industry to come back with certain more restrictions. It’s something we’re thinking about. We’ve not made any decisions today in that regard.
Speaker 4: (11:51)
[inaudible 00:11:51] Governor, a couple of questions for you. First is the state Medicaid system prepared for what I imagine will be an unprecedented spike in applicants and do we have enough from the federal government to sustain it? In addition though, your work is very hard when it comes to a moratorium on evictions. Is there anything that prevents [inaudible 00:12:11] from having to pay late penalties on you know for months and then specifically you mentioned that there’s [inaudible 00:03:24].
Jay Inslee: (12:24)
Yeah, the issue about late payments we’re looking at, I don’t believe our order covers that. It is something we are going to be thinking about in the days to come. On the Medicaid side. The one thing I want to say is I’m really glad that our state has been so successful getting coverage for over 800,000 people now under health care reform. I say that because people have forgotten we need healthcare for everybody right now and I’m glad we have this stopped some of the efforts in Congress to repeal healthcare that would remove healthcare from 800,000 people. If anything comes out of this covid crisis, we hope that it is, people giving up trying to take away healthcare from 800,000 people in the state of Washington. That will be something good coming out of this darkness. In answer to your question, look, all of these challenges we have with increased numbers, we will have to add resources to process applications and develop new technologies to deal with avalanches of claims.
Jay Inslee: (13:29)
We are doing that, but I think Washingtonians may have to have a little more patience to get these claims processed, just by the tsunami we’re getting hit with, but I can assure you we are doing everything humanly possible to build capacity. Let me give you an example. We have freed up 540 state employees who are in different agencies to hopefully be able to move into the employment security department and fill the need for massive new processing capability. Now, not all of those people are going to be able to do all of that work, but some of them will. So we’re going to do everything we can to do this as quickly as possible. And I want to thank Washingtonians if they need a dose of patience as we go through this.
Speaker 5: (14:22)
If I heard you correctly, I think you said the state has spent $120 million of the $200 million program [inaudible 00:14:29] Do you think you will have to call lawmakers back to get more money for this?
Jay Inslee: (14:41)
I’m trying to decide between possibly and probably, I guess I would probably say probably. Given the extent of the economic damage that we have suffered, we have not made a decision on that. And as I’ve indicated, it is my belief that we are going to have to do some more aggressive things. The question is when to do those things. If it’s before January, then we would call a special session. So stay tuned. The legislature is perfectly willing to get back to work as we assess these economic things. Now what we’ve done today, I want to stress, these are relatively small things given the mountain we’ve got to climb, but they are things we can do quickly and that’s what we’re focusing on right today. We are starting to turn our attention to the larger, more longterm issues of rebuilding demand in this state.
Jay Inslee: (15:34)
And if you heard me talking yesterday, I firmly believe that the nation and our state are going to need very, very large increased demand to build our economy again, to build our infrastructure in many, many ways. We can’t just rely on what you think of as transfer payments, unemployment compensation, this expansion crucial at this moment. I’m glad we’re doing it. Small business loans to help these companies survive. Crucial at this moment. I’m glad we’re doing it, but we do need in the not too distant future, a plan to build this state, to create demand for these companies to get out there and start rebuilding our state and our nation. And that would require a special session.
Speaker 6: (16:23)
Yes. Governor, you mentioned $5 million for small business grants, but that sounds like such a small number considering the need. Is there any thought to expanding the amount of money that would be available for such grants and for director Brown, if a business applies for one of those grants, how long is it going to take for them to get the money?
Jay Inslee: (16:46)
Elisa, do you want to answer that?
Yes, the money should be able to be turned around really quickly. The partners that we’re working with across the state are the chambers of commerce, the economic development entities that each County has, so there is already a familiarity with the businesses in their communities, so the funds will be, we’re already have set up the contracts with those DEO organizations and hope to move through that process very quickly. These, as you said, relatively small grants, but $10,000 for a small business can help them with fixed costs, utilities, the kinds of things that they can’t turn off right now. And we hope that in some ways this is a bridge. Those same companies may be eligible for the small business administration loans offered by the federal government, but that those processes are still being developed. And the smallest businesses with 10 or fewer employees are the ones that have the fewest resources to fall back on. So this will be available all across the state.
Speaker 7: (18:02)
So this will be available all across the state and the application process begins today at thecoronavirus.wa.gov website.
Jay Inslee: (18:10)
Yeah. I just want to agree with Essex that these are small numbers, but to a small business, a mom and pop restaurant, that can keep in business when they get this benefit, it won’t be small to them. It could be life changing. So I’m glad we’re able to do this. But we are going to require much larger infusions and investment in our state to really get our economy going. We certainly recognize that.
Speaker 7: (18:37)
Next question comes from [inaudible 00:18:39] from the Yakima Herald.
Speaker 8: (18:43)
Hello, Governor, thanks for an answering my question. I actually was going to ask about construction but that was already asked so I’m going to ask a different question. I’m wondering, as you mentioned earlier you were able to return a 400 ventilators to the stockpile, and in that stockpile was included 20 ventilators that came to Yakima and that you gave back, so I just wanted to see if you could comment about possibly more ventilators coming to central Washington.
Jay Inslee: (19:06)
Yes. Well, we did a very extensive analysis of this and became very confident that we will have adequate ventilators across the state of Washington, including central Washington, including Yakima to suit our needs. Now that’s in part because we have another 950 ventilators, which we are purchasing ourselves that are coming in the next days and weeks. So when we originally ordered those 400 from the federal government, our modeling showed that we would have a much more rapid increase in the number of people that were in critical care that needed ventilators. Fortunately, because what people are doing in Washington, we have been able to reduce the number of the people who will need that, particularly early in this event. And so it turns out that the need was not there. So we did what Washingtonians always do. We actually responsibly to help everyone, and those are going to go to places where they have critical shortages today in their ICUs.
Jay Inslee: (20:07)
And there’s a number of them obviously including New York and soon Louisiana. So I think we made the right decision. We were teamed up with Oregon and California in this regard. And I think we’re in good shape on ventilators, but I do want to make this point, forgive me if I’ve said this before, there is going to be a very human temptation in the next several weeks that if our fatality rate starts to go down, and we hope it does, that is not a certainty, but if it does, there’s going to be a human inclinations to let up, to take it easy a little bit, thinking that we’re on top of this. That could be a fatal mistake. So yes, we have returned ventilators, but we have not, we’re not free of the threat of losing hundreds of other Washingtonians as we continue to improve.
Jay Inslee: (20:57)
And the way I think of this, my dad was an old track coach and he always taught runners. You got to run through the tape. You don’t stop five yards beef before he hit the tape. You got to run through it. We got to wrestle this to the ground. We got to get it so low that it’s not going to come back and bite us again. And to do that, all of us are going to have to really concentrate on the task before us. And fortunately people are, we’re continuing to see huge, massive commitment of Washingtonians to being safe and helping each other.
Speaker 7: (21:26)
Next we go to [inaudible 00:03:29].
Speaker 9: (21:31)
Good afternoon, Governor. There appears to be a building group in Idaho encouraging folks to ignore the orders, the sheriff has endorsed that move, there’s talk of public Easter services. Any concerns for you along the Eastern Washington border that some of those folks may, as they do, come into the state of Washington. And do you see any need to increase enforcement in that part of the state or anywhere with the Easter weekend coming up?
Jay Inslee: (22:02)
Well, to my knowledge, we have not seen that in the state of Washington, which is a good thing. Look, we know how important faith is in many, many lives in our state. We know that it provides a comfort and hope and the benefits of faith. We understand that very deeply, but we also understand that it can be a fatal communion and that’s just too dangerous right now. So we have had enormous cooperation of our faith community in Washington state who have abided by this because they recognize the power of love and the first power of love is not to infect your congregate. And we built into our order of the ability for churches to have a number of people in their churches to run their social networking so you can have virtual services and I think those are being quite successful. So we hope that will continue to be the case. So at the moment we’ve just had, like I said, the vast majority of Washingtonians are trying to take care of their loved ones in the state and we have not seen that problem in our state.
Speaker 7: (23:10)
Next we have Jim Camden with the Spokesman Review.
Jim Camden: (23:14)
Thank you, Governor, a couple of numbers type questions. You mentioned the 300 beds that the state is returning. I’m wondering if you’re confident that you can get those beds back, if you need them, if at some point things do continue on this progress. On the $5 million worth of grants, are those going to be divided up across the state based on population, some other metric, or is it first come first serve?
Jay Inslee: (23:44)
Lisa, do you want to comment on that?
Sure. We’re putting in place a way to have some regional equity. So yes, people should apply right away because there will not be enough funds for all of that would like those funds for every business. But we will be evaluating them according to each county’s applications that they send in so that we can make sure we have a distribution across the whole state. So I’m here in Spokane right now, Greater Spokane Incorporated will be the partner organization that we work with here.
Jay Inslee: (24:26)
Does that answer… Jim, you had another question that escaped me. What is your, you had another question there.
Jim Camden: (24:32)
About the 300 beds. Are you confident that if you need those beds in the future, if things don’t continue to go in a positive direction that you’re seeing, can you get them back?
Jay Inslee: (24:43)
Yes, and I think you’re finding governors who are sharing this responsibility as I’ve indicated, Washington, California, Oregon, all acted responsibility in this regard and I think you’re going to find a common sense of that across the country. We have had a very open communications with FEMA, with the US Army, with the Navy, with Vice President Pence, who I speak to probably every other day. So we have very good communications with our federal partners to try to talk about these prioritization issues and we’ve been appreciative of the federal government has helped us in any number of ways. So I feel confident about that. Look, if I did not feel confident in that, we would not have made these decisions to release some of these assets. Obviously this is my home, this is my state, and this is where my heart and responsibility are. But I feel good about where we are right now in that regard.
Jay Inslee: (25:40)
But as I have said now, we can only be confident if we maintain, and to some degree increase, our commitment to this social distancing. We can only be confident if our citizens over the age of 65 don’t go to the grocery store when they don’t have to, ask somebody else to help them. Only if we have business leaders maintain social distancing if they are still open. Only if we can keep our young people from congregating and beaches and parks. All of those things need to continue if we’re going to succeed on this. You may have seen some modeling done by the Institute for Health Metrics here in Seattle, and it had some good news for us that suggested our predicted fatalities is going down from what was earlier predicted rather significantly. That’s really good news but people need to understand in that model it is modeled on the assumption that we will continue to keep our nose to the ground here in our shoulder to the wheel. If we let up, that number is going back up again on fatalities. So this is a moment of sustained effort to keep this all the way until the end of the game here.
Speaker 7: (26:59)
We have time for two more questions. Next will be [inaudible 00:27:01] with [inaudible 00:27:02] Radio.
Speaker 10: (27:02)
Speaker 11: (27:02)
[inaudible 00:27:02] Hi, Governor Congresswoman Jayapal and several of our congressional delegation have sent a letter to the federal government to ask for more testing supplies for here. I’m wondering if based on the information that you have at this point, can you paint me a picture of where we are testing wise in Washington state.
Jay Inslee: (27:22)
We are in a very, very unsatisfactory position and this is one of been my greatest frustrations where the federal government has not acted with as much intensity of leadership that we need. We have hundreds of people that we would like to test today, including some in our longterm care facilities that have had people infected in their facility that cannot get tested. And the reason is that there simply are not enough test kits, a swab, a vile with what’s called transport medium in it where you take the sample and you put it in and it keeps the virus in a position to be sampled. Those kits are simply not available to us and this is massively frustrating. We are searching the world to acquire them. I spoke this morning to a company them that makes these swabs and so as Governor, I’m actually trying to procure them everywhere in the world right now and I think we’re going to succeed by the way to accelerate a procurement on that because of that conversation.
Jay Inslee: (28:32)
So we are doing everything humanly possible but there is a world shortage of these and that is why I have been trying to urge the administration with all the power I possess to use their ability to order the production of these kits. The president United States does have legal authority under the defense production act to order companies to manufacturer swabs and vials and transport medium to get this job done so that we can distribute these kits to the people who need them in the state of Washington. And so far by and large, the President has not been willing to exercise that authority. Our delegation has urged the President, I was on a call this morning with our congressional delegation and they have been very vigorous in this regard. Adam Smith, who’s obviously a leader in the armed services community in the House, has urged the administration to move in this direction largely to no avail.
Jay Inslee: (29:34)
Now we’re doing everything we can. We’re contacting companies and looking for companies that might be able to manufacture these kits as well, but the federal government has much more ability to move the manufacturing base and we wish that they would use that opportunity. Now, the kits are not the only issue. We also have to dramatically increase the ability to analyze these samples, meaning the analytic capacity of the whole system has to increase several fold.
Jay Inslee: (30:07)
And this is something I don’t believe yet the federal government has come to terms with of how much we have to increase testing capability. Because we’re going to have to increase it dramatically as we come through this epidemic to allow people to safely return to work. So I can’t overstate the need for increased capacity, the need for federal help on this and the need for us to be as vigorous as possible to obtain this equipment. Now as a result, we’ve had to make triage decisions where if you have two places where you need the kit, you’ve got to make a really hard decision about the way to save the most life. And we’re making those decisions every day and they’re very, very difficult. So we’re doing everything we can to improve that capacity, but we need a lot more federal help.
Speaker 12: (30:55)
Final question comes from Keith from Tacoma. Keith, are you there?
Jay Inslee: (30:55)
Keith, are you with us? Are you muted?
Speaker 12: (31:07)
Instead we will go to Carolyn with [inaudible 00:31:17]
Jay Inslee: (31:22)
Talking about the shortage of test kits. A week or so ago, time is still meaningless now, sometime recently you asked Washington state companies come forward to volunteer their services. Have been able to locate anyone in the state of Washington who’s able to help us with his kit materials?
Jay Inslee: (31:46)
I don’t believe so as of this moment, but I’m going to be having a conversation with leaders in the life sciences industries in our state in the near future, and the hope that we can identify some additional assistance. And if anybody who’s listening to this production has any ideas, please let us know. These are critical and we need help throughout the supply chain to make this happen. So we’ll be diligent. If you have an idea, send it to me. We’re going to keep up this work.
Speaker 12: (32:15)
Jay Inslee: (32:19)
Final remarks, just want to thank everyone for what you’re doing. Winning an effort like this is a collection of thousands of small acts and I want to thank everyone for their small acts that are adding up. The people who are shopping for a grandparent, the people who are finding a way to help a student right now in these difficult times when they’re not in school. Helping with childcare, with hard working parents that are telecommuting. All of these small acts are what actually wins a war. That’s how you win wars. There are millions of small heroic actions. I want to thank everybody for what you’re doing in this regard and we’re going to get through this together. Wash your hands. Thank you.
Jay Inslee: (33:02)