May 4, 2021
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 4
Washington Governor Jay Inslee held a COVID-19 press conference on May 4, 2021. He announced a two-week pause to the state’s reopening plan. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Jay Inslee: (05:47)
All set? Okay. Good morning, my fellow Washingtonians. Today I am announcing a two week pause on our phased reopening plan. This means all counties for the next two weeks will stay in the current phase that they’re in this morning. At the end of the two week pause, we will evaluate the metrics at that time. The number of cases per 100,000, the hospitalizations. So this is not a change to the phase plan, but we are pausing it for two weeks as we continue to evaluate the changing conditions in the state of Washington.
Jay Inslee: (06:28)
This decision is based on the information that we’ve been able to analyze just in the last few days, as that has come in on a daily basis. And we’re responding to what we’ve learned with that most recent information, as we always have. And I think our flexibility throughout this pandemic has been one of the reasons we’ve had a great deal of success. That as this virus has thrown us curves, we have responded. It’s also worked because of the tremendous compliance we’ve had with our requirements for masking and social distancing, and a great credit to this goes to the state of Washington citizens.
Jay Inslee: (07:10)
Before I talk some more about that, just a word on our vaccinations. Today, more than 54% of the eligible Washingtonians have received their first dose of the vaccine, and 38% are now fully vaccinated. Obviously, we want that effort to continue because we have a long ways to go to get to a much safer position in the state of Washington.
Jay Inslee: (07:35)
I have decided on this two week pause in consultation with our state Department of Health and experts because we are in a constantly evolving situation and unlike any other time during the pandemic. We look at the most recent information literally on a daily basis to make these decisions. For the past several weeks, epidemiologists have observed a fourth wave developing of COVID, as I talked about last week. But the most recent data that has come in just in the last few days, including what DOH has observed over the weekend, shows a potential plateauing of the COVID activity in the state of Washington, which obviously is good news.
Jay Inslee: (08:20)
I’d like to show you the epicurve. First off, I’m going to show you the one that I hope that you can turn your computer so I can see which one is up, please. Okay, this shows the rate of cases going back to November. As we see, the two spikes in December and January, the curve then came down, it started to go up with this fourth surge, which you will notice just… And now I’ll switch to the next to show a blow up of the last two weeks. You’ll see that towards last week or two, we’ve had essentially a plateauing, particularly in the last several days. On the right side of the curve, it’s essentially flat. Maybe if you’re a total optimist, even a potential little decline. I wouldn’t go so far to say that, but at least a plateauing. So we have seen some continued changes, and as the pandemic has changed, so have we.
Jay Inslee: (09:24)
We know that we’ve, unfortunately, had increased hospitalizations. Fortunately, the death rate has gone down dramatically since we started the vaccine effort, and we’re very, very happy about that. We attribute these changes to our vaccination progress. There’s a reason we’re succeeding on this. It is because not only have we acted safely, but we’re getting shots into arms. And we’re pleased that we made priority decisions on who would receive the vaccinations first in a way that has dramatically driven down the death rate, because those who are most vulnerable received the vaccine first.
Jay Inslee: (10:02)
So we’re at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress. Our economy is starting to show early signs of growth. We’ve had great legislative victories on a number of issues, and we know vaccines are the ticket to full reopening. And we’re very pleased about the success to date in that regard, but we need to continue to those efforts.
Jay Inslee: (10:28)
There is reason to have hope that if we were to continue our progress on vaccinations, that sometime in the summer, we could potentially have much more normal activities in our state. But this is dependent on our continuing to increase the vaccination rates. And as you know, we’ve had some concern about that in the last week or two. So if you have not made an appointment for a vaccine, if your loved one has not, we certainly encourage you to do so. Make a plan to do it. There are now multiple, multiple options about where to get this vaccine for anyone over the age of 16. And we stress that, anyone over the age of 16. Young people are now an increasing percentage of people in our hospitals. So it’s not just the senior citizens we’re concerned about, it’s everyone. Our federal partners are also indicating that we are in the cusp of approval to the vaccination for those of 12 years and older. So if that comes through, we will encourage folks in that direction as well.
Jay Inslee: (11:40)
Now, I can’t say enough about what a miracle this is to have this vaccine. These vaccines are desperately wanted across the planet, and we have them right here in the state of Washington. And so we would hate to see that miracle go to waste. And we hope that if you had a vaccine, you’ll talk to your loved ones about the necessity and advisability of this. And if you have any questions about the vaccine, we really encourage people to call their medical provider, their physician, their physician’s assistant, their dentist, their chiropractor, your dental hygienist, your dentist. They can provide you the best information about this.
Jay Inslee: (12:22)
I talked with the organizations that represented these professions yesterday, and they are going to be very active both sharing information and advice with their patients, but increasingly being in a position to actually administer the vaccine in these medical settings. We want to provide as much access as we possibly can to folks. So we’re confident in our ability to continue to improve, but we’ve got all keep pulling together.
Jay Inslee: (12:53)
I’d like to take a moment to commend some of our local leadership. Just in the last few days, local health authorities in Ferry County have made their own individual decision to put their county into phase two. That is a step that represents tremendous leadership on our local partners. The Whitman County board took similar steps during an outbreak last month. Not a phase change necessarily, but other strong measures. So what we’re doing today, we want to make sure to reiterate that local officials have the ability to make decisions on their own. And again, I recognize Ferry County’s local health decisions. Their decision is going to save lives. It was a standup thing to do, and it was a response to a very disappointing super spreader event in Republic, and they took action. Hats off to those leaders in Ferry County, because those folks are helping not only citizens in Ferry County, they help citizens all over the state of Washington so that super spreader event is not moved to the rest of the counties in the state of Washington.
Jay Inslee: (14:04)
So to talk more about this two week pause, we have Dr. Umair Shah and Dr. Jeffrey Duchin. Let me call on Dr. Duchin for comments. Jeff, take it away.
Jeffrey Duchin: (14:18)
Thank you, Governor. Can you hear me?
Jay Inslee: (14:20)
Yes, we can. We hear you, Jeff.
Jeffrey Duchin: (14:25)
On behalf of Executive Constantine and myself, I want to thank you for the opportunity to provide a brief update and perspective on today’s announcement and our situation in King County. In assessing the trajectory of our outbreak and considering response measures, both the number of cases and hospitalizations and the direction of our trend, whether we are rising or falling, are important. Although King County has exceeded the previously announced phase two rollback metrics, the recent increase in the number of cases in King County has leveled off for approximately two weeks now, and is no longer rising at this time. We’ve also seen a plateau last week in our emergency department visits for COVID-like illness. And although it’s not possible to predict with certainty where we’re headed next, in many other areas of the country that experienced the COVID-19 fourth wave, cases have been declining.
Jeffrey Duchin: (15:16)
A two week pause recognizes new information about our local disease trends and provides time to see more reliably which direction we’re heading in, and whether we are turning the corner on the fourth wave, which we very well may be. We continue to do everything we possibly can to get more people vaccinated, especially younger adults, to decrease our future risk.
Jeffrey Duchin: (15:39)
I think this is a good, and I know a difficult, decision by the governor to make these late changes in response to the rapidly evolving situation. To paraphrase Miles Davis, the notes you don’t play are as important as the ones you do. It’s critical to remember that COVID-19 is an airborne disease, and there are important concrete steps that businesses and others can take to improve the air quality in indoor air-
Jeffrey Duchin: (16:03)
Businesses and others can take to improve the air quality in indoor air spaces and reduce the risk for the spread of the virus now, and for the future. All King County business owners and operators and building managers for restaurants, gyms, and other retail and other public spaces should review and use the new guidance on our website for three steps to improve indoor air quality and make our indoor air spaces as safe as possible. And everyone who’s out and about should be familiar with these safety measures and look for them to be sure steps are being taken to make the air as healthy as possible in the stores, businesses, restaurants, gyms, and other places you visit. This is also an important moment to highlight that, whether we’re talking about phase two or phase three, the main reason we need these restrictions at all, is because not enough of us are vaccinated currently.
Jeffrey Duchin: (16:49)
And unvaccinated people are at risk, not only for COVID-19 themselves, but pose a risk of spreading it to others, especially in indoor spaces. Just as we had no playbook to guide us when we experienced the first COVID-19 outbreak in the United States early last year, there’s no playbook for the end game for this pandemic, but I’m sure all of us want to avoid a prolonged game of whack-a-mole with imposing and easing restrictions. Vaccination is the cure for mitigation measure whack-a-mole. Vaccination is our ticket to a more stable and more normal life and lifestyle. And the more people that are vaccinated and the more quickly, the more we will all be able to do, the more quickly we’ll be able to do it, and the healthier our community and our economy will be longterm. Thank you again for the opportunity to join you today.
Jay Inslee: (17:40)
Thanks Dr. Duchin. I think what we’re hearing is this is not a pause in our vaccination efforts. We need an acceleration of our vaccination efforts. We want to get through this as fast as humanly possible and everybody, you can step up to plate in this regard, we will get it through as fast as humanly possible with increased vaccinations. Before I take questions, I’d like to also address those folks who still have an obligation to continue safe operations in their businesses and in their organizations. Look, non-adherence to our currently existing safety protocols, put people in danger. That’s just a fact. So most counties still have a 50% capacity limitation for restaurants and other businesses. In three counties, it’s a 25%. It is our expectation that responsible owners will follow these requirements. And fortunately, the vast majority of our business owners have done that. And that’s why we’ve been successful.
Jay Inslee: (18:49)
A large credit of this goes to those business owners that have complied with these rules. But not everyone has, unfortunately, and I do want the folks to know that we take these protocols very seriously. We’ve had about 100 000 complaints filed over the pandemic that have been filed with our emergency operations center. We’ve had thousands of inspections and the department has administered about $7.3 million in fines already for the few folks that are not compliant. We’ll be continuing that enforcement to make sure that we preserve the safety of all Washingtonians. And again, thank you for those business owners that are compliant. We need everyone to do so to get through this, to get people vaccinated. So while we’re pausing today, it doesn’t mean we’re going to pause our efforts. I believe Washington’s going to remain committed. The vaccination rates I hope will continue and grow. We’re going to have stable dosages moving forward. We probably will not have increasing in the near future supplies from the federal government, but they will be stable. So in a sense, that is good news. Dr. Sean, did you want to say anything before we turn to questions?
Dr. Sean: (20:10)
Just briefly, governor, thank you. And I want to also thank Dr. Duchin for joining us today. And I think he highlighted that from the public health standpoint, the concerns that we have, and also the hope. We are seeing encouraging signs that the, what we call the epi-curve for cases may be starting to level off across the state. And I’m glad to hear what’s happening in King County. And certainly we’re watching what’s happening throughout the state, including in our smaller jurisdictions, Eastern side of the state, as well as what’s happening in the Puget Sound area and beyond. This two week pause, we know, is going to give us the opportunity to see where we are at the beginning of a trend and if disease activity in the state is indeed leveling off or even beginning to drop. So that gives us really that important point.
Dr. Sean: (21:02)
So thank you governor for moving in this direction. I think the most important thing that I would echo both what you said as well as Dr. Duchin is the importance of people that are listening to get vaccinated. We know vaccines are our pathway out of this pandemic. If we get enough people vaccinated, we know not only can counties stay open, but we can get out of this pandemic throughout this summer into the fall and beyond. It’s been two and a half weeks since we opened up the vaccine eligibility to all who are 16 years of age and above. And I know we’ve been seeing across the state, people helping each other get vaccinated. And I want to just remind everybody of this important adage that if you have gotten vaccinated, your job is not done. Please help someone else get vaccinated as well. We need to be in this together.
Dr. Sean: (21:55)
We absolutely know that vaccines work. We want to make sure that people remember, don’t hesitate, vaccinate. And it’s also important that while we are in this very difficult and critical time, where we’re referring to vaccines is as our pathway out of this pandemic, we also remind everybody the importance of wearing masks and social distancing and all the other measures that also supplement and compliment what the vaccines provide to our residents. 5.5 million plus doses of vaccines have been administered across the state of Washington, and we’re making great progress. But we can’t do this on our own, and I want to thank all of our local partners on the ground, our local public health jurisdictions. I want to thank all of our tribal vaccine partners and certainly our private sector and our other healthcare partners who have come together to assure that we are vaccinating across the state of Washington.
Dr. Sean: (22:49)
So no matter who you are, where you live, that you have access to vaccine. And finally, let me just close by saying ultimately, that the more every day we can vaccinate one more individual who was not planning on getting vaccinated the day before, it gets this one day closer to the point where we do not have to move back at all and can continue to move forward as a state. So thank you, governor, thank you for your leadership on this. Dr. Duchin, thank you and Patty Hayes at King County and your executive leadership there. And I just want to thank all of our local health department jurisdictions. We spoke with them today and I’m hopeful that this pause will allow us to continue to see trends going in the better direction.
Jay Inslee: (23:34)
Okay. With that. You may fire when ready. Gridley?
All right. First, we’ll go to Rachel La Corte, with AP. Go ahead, Rachel.
Rachel La Corte: (23:46)
Hi, good morning. Governor, given the changing metrics and pauses that we’ve seen related to the statewide plan over these past few months, at what point do you see handing decision-making on restrictions back to local health officials? As you noted, counties have the authority to roll back on their own as Ferry county did. So why not hand full authority back to the counties at this point? I’d also like to hear from Jeff Duchin on this, as it relates to King County decision-making in this process.
Jay Inslee: (24:11)
Well, we have found broad desires across the state to have as much comprehensive statewide approach as possible from our local partners. They sometimes have more difficulty making these very difficult decisions than the state does because when the state does it as a uniform comprehensive approach, it has the moral force behind it that’s easier to seek compliance with. So this has served us very well in the state of Washington. And for the foreseeable future, we would intend to continue this status. Now, as you’ve indicated, the counties do have the ability to make independent decisions as Ferry County did. So they still have the ability to influence their own destiny by having to ratchet down some of these phases. But we do think that our decision-making has been very successful. And I think, I got to tell you, the approach to this pandemic, there’s no real playbook to COVID, it’s brand new and nothing was written on the tablets. And we are making very difficult decisions based on the best science we have.
Jay Inslee: (25:21)
And they’re all subject to criticism, I understand that. But the proof is in the pudding, our statewide approach, compared to other states, we’ve saved maybe 15, 17,000 lives by having a statewide approach and having, frankly, a state willing to make hard decisions. These decisions are not easy. I can tell you because I’ve made them. When a business has to curtail its activities, that hurts, and it hurts everybody, including the people making the decision. So a lot of our local folks, I think, are happy that I’ve taken that on my shoulders, frankly. And I’ll continue to do that until it makes sense to do otherwise. Now as to when this will change in some significant way, it will change when we have a high PR a high enough percentage of our population vaccinated that can give us high confidence that our hospitals will not be overwhelmed at some date.
Jay Inslee: (26:25)
We clearly do not have that today because we still are at maybe 30 some percent people who are fully vaccinated, 38%. So we’re way below what we would require to have some degree of confidence that the pandemic would not sweep over the state and shut down our hospital system. We know that can happen. So, as I’ve said, if we continue this pace of vaccinations, we think sometime this summer, we potentially could get to a level of vaccination that would give us confidence where the state could step back, have local decision making in that regard. But we need to continue that pace of vaccinations. Dr. Duchin, you want to add anything to this?
Jeffrey Duchin: (27:20)
Thank you, governor. It’s a very interesting question, the question of overlapping authorities. And if you look at how we’ve done in Washington state, we have among the lowest COVID-19 case rates and death rates in the nation. And I think that’s a tribute to the cohesion that our community showed with great collaboration and speaking with one voice around how we responded to this pandemic. And I think that is in contrast what you saw in many, both our national leadership at the time, and in many other states. And I think that the alignment of overlapping authorities and this cohesion has been to a great extent responsible for our success. We have a very collaborative relationship with the governor in King County. I believe the governor takes very seriously the input from his public health experts of the department of health and the local communities. And we look forward to continuing to work together and having a unified approach to resolving this pandemic in Washington State and hopefully throughout the country and throughout the world.
Jay Inslee: (28:38)
Dr. Sean: (28:39)
Governor, if I could just add, and Dr. Duchin said this, there is not a decision related to this pandemic on the health and medical side that the governor does not ask for the department of health’s input. And we are continually discussing with the governor, governor senior leadership team, and well beyond, all sorts of facets of this response. And so I do want to provide the behind the scenes just again, look, if you will, of what Dr. Duchin just described of what’s happening from a local level, it’s also happening at a state level. And that is also not the case across the country. And so governor, I did want to add that you and I are on the phone constantly about various issues related to this pandemic, and I’m glad we have that relationship. So thank you.
Jay Inslee: (29:36)
I want to note too, that we gather this intelligence from all over the state of Washington, from multiple sources, not just from the state experts, but from county, city, federal, and otherwise, and private businesses we talk to on a regular basis to get the most real-time intelligence that we can possibly have going into these decisions. But bottom line, what I can tell you, Rachel, the other states that have taken the approach that the states just abandoned its obligations to its citizens and just throws it on these local officials, you had tens of thousands of more people lose their lives. That is the ultimate justification, rationale, and support for what we’ve done.
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Ryan Blethen with the Seattle Times. Go ahead, Ryan.
Ryan Blethen: (30:29)
Yeah, hi. Thanks for taking the question. So what needs to happen to ensure there’s a reopening plan in place that can keep pace with the changing numbers and the changing dynamics of the pandemic, and yet give businesses in counties confidence in that reopening plan? And might there be changes to the healthy Washington plan during this two week pause?
Jay Inslee: (30:53)
Well, this is a very difficult question. It’s a very important question because there is a constant tension between predictability and certainty and the ability to respond to changing facts on the ground, rates of infection, hospitalization rates, death rates, and the like, and those things are intention. I would love to have, last December, give everyone a roadmap of our protocols for the next six months. We would have then had certainty for businesses and concrete decision-making, but we would have made decisions that would have been wrong, ultimately, because this pandemic has been so rapidly changing and frankly, so unpredictable. So I think that we have to face the facts that if we are going to save lives and simultaneously keep businesses open, remaining flexible is an important element and virtue, and it has served us very well. Now in this case, the fact that we’re flexible by pausing this, I think is going to make a lot of business people happy. So we chose not to.
Jay Inslee: (32:03)
We chose not to embrace certainty. We decided to embrace flexibility involving changing conditions that have changed fairly markedly over the last few days. So the best thing I can tell you is I’m very mindful. We would like to have absolute concrete protocols from here till next Christmas, but I don’t think it’s actually the best course for us right now. So we will look at this in the next two weeks. We are hopeful that these trends could start to go down. We don’t know that they will. They could just go right back up again at an accelerating curve. And I think we have to make decisions based on that situation. We’ve got to figure out which pitch this virus has thrown at us. And if they’re throwing us a curve ball, we got to hit a curve ball. So we’re going to continue generally on that route.
We’ll go to say Sarah [inaudible 00:33:04] with McClatchy. Go ahead, Sarah.
Jay Inslee: (33:07)
If I may let me add something to that too, because Ryan asked a really important question. Anybody who’s frustrated by the changes that we have seen, both in our protocols and during this pandemic, you can do something about that. You can find somebody who hasn’t been vaccinated yet or yourself and ask them to consider getting vaccinated. That’s the solution to our frustration and our anxiety. That’s how we get out of this.
Jay Inslee: (33:37)
And so I really want to second with Dr. Shaw said. The governor’s not the only potential leader here. Everybody is a potential leader. Physicians, physical therapists, mothers, daughters, sons, nephews. If we all embrace this kind of effort from a community standpoint to all be leaders here, we can knock this thing down. Look, this thing as an extremely effective vaccine, that’s one thing we know, and it’s also extremely safe. So I just want to encourage anybody that if you get frustrated, don’t just get angry. Get even with this virus. Knock it down, get somebody else to get vaccinated.
Okay, we’ll go to Sarah [inaudible 00:34:21]. Go ahead, Sarah.
So you’ve referenced this level of vaccination that would enable a more substantial reopening. What is that level of vaccination for eligible people that you’re looking toward at this point? Or is that still to be determined?
Jay Inslee: (34:35)
That is still to be determined and I’ll tell you why. There’s things we don’t know and there’s things we do know. What we don’t know is, at the moment, what level of vaccination in combination with natural immunity would give you a level of immunity that would substantially break the back of this pandemic. That is not known to science as of this moment. You will hear our numbers from 70% to 85% of your population to get to that level of breaking the back of the pandemic. So we really don’t know what that number is at the moment.
Jay Inslee: (35:16)
But here’s what we do know, thankfully. We know that every single person who gets vaccinated is one step closer to that eventual resolution. And it may happen sooner. It may happen later, but we do know that every single person has a role in this. Every family member has a role in this. And we get a step closer every single time somebody gets vaccinated. We have to act on what we do know, not what we don’t know.
Jay Inslee: (35:42)
So we’re encouraging people in that direction and we’re continuing to monitor the epidemiological evidence. As you know, we’re briefed by the Institute for Disease Modeling every week, and those are extensive briefings. We’ve asked them to continue the pursuit of answering the question that you’ve asked, but it’s a very, very difficult one to be able to have a firm number right now. But we’re making good progress on the number of vaccinations. If we continue this rate, we ought to have some confidence moving forward.
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Laurel Demkovich with The Spokesman-Review. Go ahead, Laurel.
Laurel Demkovich: (36:24)
Hi Governor. You mentioned that hospitalizations are still kind of going up, and I know that there are some small rural hospitals specifically that are struggling to transfer patients to larger hospitals. So can you explain a little bit more about why put the pause now, even though hospitals are still trying to avoid a major surge and maybe moving counties back for a few weeks could help those hospitals get a better handle on their cases?
Jay Inslee: (36:52)
I think you might’ve been referring to Ferry County. They have had some difficulty because of the super spreader event and they showed local leadership by making a phase change themselves. I really have not heard of any other counties that are having to transfer patients because of COVID. I don’t think that’s really the situation right now.
Jay Inslee: (37:11)
Fundamentally, what we believed is that the case rates usually are ahead of the hospitalizations. So the hospitalization, the pace of change up or down, lags maybe two weeks what the infection rate is for obvious reasons. It takes time for people to develop symptoms. It takes time for a decision to be made to hospitalize them. And so what we see is that the infection rate is kind of a leading indicator of where you’re going. And that, as I’ve indicated on the charts, if you want to put the chart up again so we can take a look at it, look at the short-term one, the last couple of weeks. If you see on this chart, which goes back to the beginning of March, in the last couple of weeks, or the last week of April in any event, we sort of got this plateauing of infection rates. So that’s what’s given us a belief that this pause makes sense. We are not, I don’t believe, in imminent danger of our hospitalized system. And if we can pause and prevent some disruption of our economy, we think that this is a reasonable step to take. Is it certain to work? No, there’s no certainty in this pandemic. But we think it’s a reasonable step.
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Jerry Cornfield with the Everett Herald. Go ahead, Jerry.
Jerry Cornfield: (38:31)
Governor, a two part question. First part on the vaccinations, I’m wondering, obviously you want to accelerate the rate. I’m wondering if the state might be working with organizations, nonprofits, businesses, to offer some tangible incentives to get people to get vaccinated, maybe a gift card, a t-shirt, a hat, something like that. And then secondly, science is a key metric. As you noted, the recent trend has been, you looked at the epi curves. Pierce County’s epi curve seems to be showing a decline in cases. I’m just wondering why Pierce County and Cowlitz and Whitman are not being elevated back to phase three, given that the trends in those counties seem to be putting them now back in line with those that are not falling back. Why not elevate those three to phase three?
Jay Inslee: (39:22)
Well, it’s because they are so substantially higher than the metrics that we were expecting in Pierce County’s… Dr. Shaw, help me out. What are their numbers right now? Do you recall?
Dr. Sean: (39:36)
We can look it up. [crosstalk 00:39:38].
Jay Inslee: (39:37)
It’s something it’s something over 300, as I recall. And there are almost eight or nine or 10 hospitalization rate, almost double the numbers you want. So they’re just too high to consider that at the moment. And I’m not sure I’d characterize it as really having a decline. So there are almost twice some of the limitations of the phase change. So we don’t think that that made sense. On the vaccination, and by the way, we’re pausing this in Pierce County too. Pierce County is not going backwards because of this. We’re just pausing the situation. On the incentive issue, we do encourage incentives for vaccinations, and as I indicated last week, there will be an increasing number of incentives that will be available to people to be vaccinated. You’ll be able to go to a Mariners game and sit close to people in a vaccinated portion of the stands. You’ll be able to have increased participation in your faith organization, sitting in a sort of a vaccination sector. And importantly, you’ll be able to go to school and colleges. Washington State, University of Washington have now said, “Here’s an incentive. You’ll be able to go to college if you become vaccinated.” So those incentives are continuing to increase. I think you will continue to see that kind of thing. We have talked to some private companies about incentive packages I won’t go into any detail about right now, but yes, we are talking to them about that kind of thing.
Jay Inslee: (41:07)
And I think that this will increase. As more and more people are vaccinated, it’s going to make more and more sense for everyone to sign up. So we’ll continue to look at those efforts.
Dr. Sean: (41:17)
And Governor, Pierce is 374.5 cases per 100,000 over the last 14 days.
Jay Inslee: (41:26)
And the limit was 200 for that phase. So we’re just way above that number at the moment. And we want to thank people in Pierce County. I know they’re working on this. They’ve done some creative things in their vaccinations. The other thing in answer to Jerry’s question, we think making these vaccinations as easy to get as possible is something we’re focusing on. We’re making sure you can get appointments by phone. We’re having increased number of walk-in clinics. You will see an increasing number of access for physicians to be able to do it = in their offices over time. The federal government is also moving in this direction. So we’re trying to make it as easy as possible. We think there’s a substantial slice of the state that is not really objecting to vaccines, they just haven’t kind of got around to it. So we want to make it as easy as possible.
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Steve Soliz with KING 5. Go ahead, Steve.
Steve Soliz: (42:28)
Good morning. My question is kind of on the same line. There’s been a lot of urging from health leaders and local leaders to get the vaccine. What more can be done besides urging? I think that the sense is from people I talk to, a number of things. One is there seems to be just fatigue from hearing, “Go get the vaccine.” And maybe there is more to be done to reach those people. And two, the other thought is they don’t want to hunt it down because I think what’s happening is they’re hearing from people that have to hunt down an appointment here or there and go to this website and that website. What can be done besides just urging people to get it done?
Jay Inslee: (43:13)
Well, we’re doing everything humanly possible. By the way, you can go to vaxxlocator, If we put that up on the screen there. You go to vaccinelocatordoh.wa.gov and they’ll tell you where it is. 90% of all Americans are within five miles of a vaccination site. And as I’ve said, we’re doing everything we can to make it as convenient as possible. The strategy we have pursued is to give people multiple environments to receive it. So people have different tastes. Some people would like a max vaxx site for their convenience. Some would like a local pop-up clinic at a Hispanic shopping center that I visited. Some would like to do it by computer, some by phone, some would like walk up clinics. We have increasing numbers of delivery systems for those who can’t leave their homes. We are advertising this in 32 languages.
Jay Inslee: (44:08)
So we’re doing everything humanly possible to give people multiple avenues. And I would say, particularly now that appointments are quite readily available pretty much throughout the state of Washington, we just need people to do this. This is certainly no harder than other medical things you’ve done in your life like getting your flu shot or having an exam at your doctor’s office. It’s a lot faster than that. So we’ll continue this effort doing everything humanly possible.
Jay Inslee: (44:39)
But coming back, somebody asked about incentives. Here’s a pretty good incentive. It might save your life. That’s a pretty good incentive we hope ultimately. Now we do think, and we always knew that there was going to be a spectrum of people on where they are in the vaccination. A lot of people were wanting to get it, willing to drive 100 miles to get it. Some other people only drive 50 miles to get it. Some were willing to make a computer appointment, some want to wait until there’s a walk-up clinic. There was always going to be a spectrum. We’re working through that spectrum now, but we got to keep that movement going to get this job done.
Dr. Sean: (45:19)
Governor, sorry, if I could just add. We’re doing a number of things from a Department of Health standpoint to continue to work with our local partners. And that includes, as the governor mentioned, incentives, but also to make the vaccine choice the easy choice. We want to make it accessible to people, all the barriers that frankly are real, and then sometimes the barriers are perceived. And we want to do everything we can to remove those and make people recognize that in the midst of their busy day, while they’re doing all the other things that they’re doing, and we want to thank everybody for what they’re doing, that this is so critical, not just for their own health and their family’s health, but ultimately for community’s health. And we are really wanting people to work together.
Dr. Sean: (46:12)
So please help each other. Please help your family members. Please help a loved one. Please help somebody that maybe you don’t even like that much. Please help them get a vaccine as well because ultimately this is about all of us together fighting this pandemic. And I think while we have this pause here, it gives us not a pause on the vaccine efforts. We want to make sure to continue to emphasize that. I think Dr. Duchin might have also had a comment on that. Jeff?
Jeffrey Duchin: (46:47)
Thank you, Dr. Shaw. Thank you, Governor. Yes. I also just wanted say that we understand that some people, particularly young people, may not feel that they’re at high risk for COVID. They may feel like it’s no big deal. And in a sense, most young people do fine, but there is a number they get very sick. They get long COVID. We don’t know the full spectrum of illness and long-term complications from this disease. But even so, it’s not only a risk to you, but to those who you come in contact with, your friends, your family members, your coworkers. Outbreaks at workplaces continue to be terribly disruptive. To people that are in the community who can’t get vaccinated themselves or can’t respond to a vaccine because they’ve got an underlying medical condition, immunosuppression, organ transplant, bone marrow transplant, chronic steroids, and other medications can put these people at risk.
Jeffrey Duchin: (47:42)
So by getting vaccinated, you not only protect yourself however much, you may or may not value that, or you protect everyone around you. And that is an incredibly important thing for us all, because that’s how we get back to community level safety in both individual, community and economic health.
Nick, did you have something you wanted to add on that one?
Nick, did you have something you wanted to add on that one?
Jeffrey Duchin: (48:05)
I just wanted to build a little bit on the Governor’s remarks about how we’re dealing with a spectrum and how that really evolves and changes and illustrates that delivering vaccine to residents is a dynamic situation. So we’re really dealing with a product adoption curve where you’ve got early enthusiasts and early adopters that have high demand, and we need to create high throughput sites to help get as many of those people through as possible. But as you’re dealing with the back half of the curve and you’re trying to get those individuals that are maybe a little more skeptical or conservative, you need to retool that infrastructure to help reach them because they’re possibly less interested in going to those same types of systems you’ve set up to deal with the early adopters and the enthusiasts.
Jeffrey Duchin: (48:49)
So it’s a constantly dynamic system and that’s the process that we’re starting right now of, how do we retool the infrastructure that we’ve created to help reach the next layer of individuals that we need to get vaccinated?
Great. Up next, we’ll go to Essex Porter with KIRO 7. Go ahead, Essex.
Essex Porter: (49:09)
Good morning, Governor. You’ve been touching on this, but in our newsroom, we’ve just received a text from one of the restaurant owners who says, “He just changed the rules again. How can we trust the process?”
Jay Inslee: (49:24)
Well, I hope that restaurant owner is happy that I changed the rules again so he can stay at 50%. I can’t believe he wouldn’t believe that was a good thing. So really happy that we’ve changed the rules to allow restaurant owners to stay open at 50%. I have to believe that would be a popular position with the restaurant industry. Now, he can stay at 25% if he’d like, that’s his decision. I’m not making him do so. So we think this will be well-received.
All right. Up next. We’ll go to Casey Decker with KREM. Go ahead, Casey.
Casey Decker: (50:01)
Yeah, here in Eastern Washington, the last few weeks, metrics in Spokane County have not been looking great. Meanwhile, [inaudible 00:50:06] County, which is in phase two, has been improving to my understanding. Is there any concern that this pause in a way, for lack of a better term, rewards bad behavior and finishes good behavior in that sense?
Jay Inslee: (50:19)
No. I just don’t think that that’s something to worry about. Look, this virus is a slippery critter. It does unpredictable things. We don’t look at this as punishment or reward. We look at this as a practical way to try to save lives and that’s how we’re making these decisions.
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Keith Eldridge with KOMO. Go ahead, Keith.
Steve Soliz: (50:44)
Governor, if indeed the fourth wave is leveling off and perhaps coming down. Is there a potential that in two weeks or very soon that you’ll be able to go without restrictions and really turn to the incentives to get vaccinated that you’ve been talking about, especially for young people like nightclubs and stuff?
Jay Inslee: (51:01)
As we’ve said now many, many times during this pandemic, anything is possible involving this virus. Anything is possible. I would think it would be very surprising to me if we had such a precipitous drop they would allow us to depend only on the vaccines. I think at least for some weeks, at least, we will continue to have to use multiple strategies against this pandemic. That includes the vaccine, but also includes some reasonable protections of socially distancing and the like. So it would be very surprising to me if that happened within two weeks.
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Charles Featherstone with the Columbia Basin Herald. Go ahead, Charles.
Charles Featherstone: (51:46)
Good morning, Governor.
Jay Inslee: (51:47)
Charles Featherstone: (51:47)
Actually, believe it or not, you have answered every question I had thought to ask.
Jay Inslee: (51:55)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate that.
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Brandi Kruse with Q13. Go ahead, Brandi.
Brandi Kruse: (52:05)
I’ll take his question then I’ve got two, if that’s possible. As for the gratitude restaurant owners should feel for today’s decision that you referenced when Essex asked you a question, we know that planning for ups and downs for restaurants is hard. It takes time, and there was no indication before 11:00 a.m. today that you would change your mind as there was no indication three weeks ago that you were going to change your mind on the metrics until the last minute. What do you say to skeptics who see all of this as completely arbitrary? And then second, you increased capacity for church services, spectator events, by allowing them to create these designated seating areas for vaccinated people. Why not let restaurants do the same thing?
Jay Inslee: (52:46)
Yeah, in answer to your question, as far as the vaccination issue, we have considered having different rules, for instance, for a fully vaccinated restaurant. We’ve given some consideration to that. Could you have 100% occupancy for instance for the restaurant that had a full vaccination or a fully vaccinated portion to some degree? And unfortunately, we just had such a lack of compliance. We tried that early in the pandemic. We had a provision that would allow people if you were in the same household to have additional capacity, but frankly, there was just a lack of compliance. People were not checking. And so we just had a lack of compliance. It wasn’t our fault. It was just folks weren’t following the rules. And so we just don’t believe there’s a meaningful way.
Jay Inslee: (53:40)
And frankly, we’ve asked the restaurateurs if they wanted such a thing and they said no. So we offered that to the restaurant industry. Would you like to have a situation where if you had exclusivity for vaccination or something like you’re talking about, and they essentially said no. So that was not something they thought was beneficial, and in most restaurants, there aren’t enough space to have just an exclusive zone that actually changes the pandemic dimension. So it just practically is not available. The issue about the notice, I am fully aware of the difficulties that people have in this situation if you’re trying to plan how much food to order or plan your staffing. It is a challenge to have these changes. There is no way to diminish the difficulty that the rest of the businesses have in that regard. But you have to make a decision, are you going to save lives and accept some of those difficulties or not?
Jay Inslee: (54:43)
We’ve made a decision to save lives. And as far as the issue of, well, we didn’t get advanced notice, look, there’s always a decision where you make a decision and until you make a decision and announce it, you can’t give advanced notice. If you give advanced notice, that’s when you’ve made the decision. So we’ve decided. We’ve shared this with as much timeliness as we possibly can. We built into the original system several days from the announcement to the effectiveness so that we would try to ameliorate some of those concerns, but I don’t want to diminish why that’s difficult for businesses. It is difficult for them. So was watching a loved one die of COVID and we’ve made a decision to reduce those tragedies.
Nick, did you have something you wanted to add on that?
Jeffrey Duchin: (55:32)
Yeah, I just wanted to build on the Governor’s remarks. We, in our office, had a lot of conversations with stakeholders, local elected officials, all through the course of the pandemic, and we fully understand the desire and need to try to have information as early as possible so that way people can acclimate themselves to it, make informed decisions about their business practices. But they also want the decision oftentimes to be a certain end particular decision. And there’s always a little bit of push-pull. You want the answer to be yes, and you also want to know that answer with as much advanced notice as possible. And it requires us, as we have said all along, to constantly be reviewing the data, talking to our public health officers like Dr. [inaudible 00:56:11] and like Dr. Shaw to really be able to make these decisions at the earliest time that we can.
Jeffrey Duchin: (56:16)
And so we make the decision today looking at the most recent data that we possibly can review to get a sense of where this pandemic is headed and, unfortunately, that does mean that the decision comes with a little bit of short notice for folks. As a reminder, the announcement today was not set to take effect until Saturday, and so we still had that built in buffer period again at the request of our stakeholders in the business community and restaurants so that way there was time for them to retool their operations and be able to make any necessary changes if there was phase movement. So we’ve really tried to construct this system in every way that we can to be considerate and thoughtful while also being responsive to the pandemic.
Jay Inslee: (56:58)
If I may too as far as your comment about skepticism, could we put up the graph again here? Just the epi graph showing the last curve. What I would say is that our strategy generally has not changed that much during the pandemic. What has changed is the pandemic, the virus, the mutations that have taken place that have come in and the variety is much more transmittable. And there is something going on that appears in the short period of the last several days to have plateaued these numbers. This is not the Governor throwing a dart at a dartboard. It’s our government responding to the scientific information that we look at in infinite detail.
Jay Inslee: (57:44)
Now, if you look at this graph, what has changed is the numbers on the graph, not the Governor or the way the Governor approaches this. We respond to changing conditions. It’s like you go to the doctor one day and he says, “Well, you’re fine,” because your vitals are good and you come in the next week and all of a sudden your blood pressure has gone through the roof. Well, they change what they do and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re responding to the changing pandemic.
All right. I think we’ve got time for just one more question. We’ll go to Katerina Chryssafis with KXLY. Go ahead, Katerina.
Katerina Chryssafis: (58:17)
Hi Governor Inslee, you mentioned that state agencies have handed down 7.3 million in penalties to date. Can you explain where most of these fines are coming from and what types of businesses are being fined as well?
Jay Inslee: (58:32)
Well, it’s been a variety. There have been some restaurants. I believe there have been some gyms. There’s been some agricultural employers. So there’s been a variety. I do want to stress that the vast majority of businesses are complying with this though and they’re showing leadership to care for their customers and their employees, and we really, really appreciate that. I’ve seen people go to exquisite links to try to keep their customers safe, and we really appreciate that. But there’s some scofflaws, and I just want to point out that this still is the law and we have an appropriate expectation it will be followed.
Any closing remarks?
Jay Inslee: (59:16)
No, I want to thank everyone for what I hope will be a successful effort to vaccinate Washington. We want to get away from having to make tough decisions that we’ve made today. I believe it’s the right one, given the changed circumstances. But let’s free ourselves from this. We want total liberty from this pandemic and these pandemic related restrictions. And the way to get that liberty is available to us. It’s in our hands. Our situation and our destiny is in our hands here, and that means getting the vaccine. So I’m hoping people will help Washington and themselves and their families to get this vaccine. That’s really the way forward for the state of Washington. And I’ll look forward to that. Please be well.