Nov 15, 2020
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript November 15
Washington Governor Jay Inslee held a COVID-19 press conference on November 15. He announced restrictions on indoor gatherings, restaurants, and more to curb the spread of coronavirus. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Governor Inslee: (05:20)
Great. Good morning. Today, November 15th, 2020, I have to report to Washingtonians, is the most dangerous public health day in over 100 years in our state’s great history. It is troublesome, but I must report that we have a pandemic raging across our state, abroad across our state. It’s is a potentially fatal disease.
Governor Inslee: (05:51)
Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals. It will keep people from receiving routine but necessary medical treatment because of the stresses our hospitals will be under. Left unchecked, the economic devastation, long-term, will be continually prolonged. And most importantly, left unchecked, we will see continued untold numbers of deaths.
Governor Inslee: (06:26)
We will not allow these things to happen. And we know we’ve seen previously two ways of growth of this pandemic in our state. This is the third wave. If you look at this shot on your screen. Sam, I believe this is up. Now, we’re facing a third wave that is trending to be more dangerous than any we have seen before. Inaction here is not an option. We have to take bold decisive action. And we are doing that today.
Governor Inslee: (07:04)
Average daily cases in our state have doubled just in the last two weeks. It cannot go on like this. We have to get this under control or our medical system will soon be overwhelmed. More people will get sick, sometimes with prolonged problems, and more people will lose their lives. We now have new record daily numbers that have surpassed anything or equal at any time during the pandemic.
Governor Inslee: (07:41)
And as we can see in the chart, that I hope Sam will put up, we have seen these numbers go up at a very, very steep rate, as the indicating chart indicates. And the unfortunate thing about this chart is that this will continue to go up at just as steeper rate left unchecked. That’s why inaction is not an option here. So all along, we have been focused to keeping our hospital system working. It’s been a top concern for us.
Governor Inslee: (08:18)
If the exponential growth of COVID-19 continues unmitigated, anyone who is afflicted with even a need for routine treatment may not be able to get it, because the hospitals will be full of people with COVID. So those today, if you were sure you’re never going to get COVID, but you might be concerned needing a new hip or a knee or a cardiac operation or cancer, you’re at risk if we do not get on top of the COVID pandemic. Because we would have to avoid doing some of those other procedures.
Governor Inslee: (08:55)
Yesterday, there were more than 2,286 cases. This is a record for our state. And preliminary numbers from the Department of Health this morning suggests that we will unfortunately break that record again today. And I’d like to put this in context of where we are relative to this pandemic. We are today in a more dangerous position than we were in March when our first stay-at-home order was issued.
Governor Inslee: (09:28)
We are in a more dangerous position due to a combination of the extent of this virus, which is now throughout the state and the nation, and because of the situation we are heading into the winter months. In March, we were heading into the summer months, and we were largely successful relative to other states because of a combination that we acted early, we did not wait. And the one thing about this virus that every epidemiologists and virologists had told us is early action can save the day. We acted early.
Governor Inslee: (10:04)
We also had the benefit we were heading to summer where people could be outside more. But now we’re heading inside, and we’re heading into the viruses home arena. This is where the virus gets us inside where we’re heading during the winter. So the time has come to reinstate some of the restrictions on activities state-wide to preserve our wellbeing and to save lives.
Governor Inslee: (10:32)
Now, the choices we are announced today are not easy ones. I can tell you that. But I do believe they are the right choices given the threat that we face. I know it isn’t easy. I share your frustration that we are back facing another wave. It would have been wonderful if we could have totally eliminated this, but we know from earlier this year, this, and I think this should give us confidence, there are things we can do that work. We have done this once or twice before. So we know that if we continue to exercise diligence, that we can continue to knock this down.
Governor Inslee: (11:14)
So today, if I talk about what we will be doing by an executive order today. Accordingly, I’m announcing a series of measures that will give us reasonable hope that the success we enjoyed last spring can be replicated in reducing the horrific rate of transmission, where we were relatively successful compared to other states that did not take early action like we did this spring. As I said, we know these measures can work. We’ve showed the country that they can work.
Governor Inslee: (11:50)
So the restrictions we’re announcing today, which will be in effect through December 14th, are not as comprehensive or to some degree tough is our stay-at-home order in March. But every part of our state we’ll see rollbacks in some sense. Most will take effect that at midnight Monday. This is not forever. This is only for now. Thanks to the brilliance of our medical community, a vaccine is on the way we need to hold this pandemic down until the calvary arrives. This is a temporary situation in our state where we seek a permanent healthy condition. And our goal is to keep the most people alive as possible until the vaccine and other therapeutic measures arrives. And that’s a task I believe Washington is up to.
Governor Inslee: (12:43)
So here are some parts of our plan. Indoor social gatherings with people from outside your home are prohibited, unless they quarantined for 14 days prior to the social gathering, or a quarantine for the seven days prior to the gathering and receive a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 48 hours prior to the gathering. This is an important part of our efforts. Because we know where this virus can get you. And that’s in your own home or your friend’s home, at a dinner party, at a get together, at a birthday party, at a Seahawk celebration. Any of those events can end up being deadly. Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people. Restaurants and bars are closed for indoor service. Outdoor dining with capacity restrictions and to-go or take-out services are still allowed under this rule. In-store retail, which includes grocery stores, is limited to 25% of occupancy, and must close any congregate areas such as food courts in malls. Religious services will be limited to 25% of indoor capacity or 200 people, whichever is less. And chores, bands, or ensembles are prohibited from performing.
Governor Inslee: (14:12)
I know that in plenty of communities in-church services and singing are inextricably linked. And I understand and appreciate how much song can lift our spirits. A solo performances are allowed under this plan, but because of the way the virus travels through our breathing and our singing, it’s just too risky indoors for choirs right now. We’ve already provided a full list of the restrictions to the median stakeholders. And you’ll be able to find those on our website as well.
Governor Inslee: (14:44)
I’d like to talk about what makes these activities risky. The decisions we have made have been based on science, the science of this virus, the science of what conditions lead to its transmission. And the recognition of what works because we’ve done these things before, frankly. We can very confidently assume where the risk is based on the science of how this disease spreads.
Governor Inslee: (15:14)
It is most likely to be transmitted indoors, where people are not wearing mass, where they come into relatively close contact, and where they spend a good amount of time, such as a restaurant or a gym. Or potentially, a store that are unmasked. These are scientific facts. They’re indisputable. Anywhere those conditions exist. Is there a risk of transmission. Anywhere. And anywhere that we can reduce the number of those conditions that exist is a way to reduce the transmission rate in the State of Washington in any environment.
Governor Inslee: (15:58)
So I want to address the business impacts and they are significant, we know this. Look, people have been hurt by previous restrictions. We’ve seen people laid off because of previous restrictions due to this pandemic during the spring. We’ve seen some businesses that have not been able to survive. And every single one of those employees and business owners deserve a real feeling of empathy of what they’re going through. I feel it right here. These are folks I know.
Governor Inslee: (16:33)
And anybody who’s unemployed because this, even if we can’t help them and we intend to do so, that I’ll talk about in a minute, it’s still terribly traumatic to these families. And we had to be cognizant of that. And we had to make decisions that are as unobtrusive to some degree as possible in this regard. And that’s what we have done. But we’ve recognized what is at stake here, which is life itself. And we’re making some hard decisions in that regard.
Governor Inslee: (17:04)
The COVID pandemic is not just a public health crisis, it is an economic crisis as well. And on our we have fashioned a plan needs to recognize both of those things. We cannot take lightly the impact on businesses in this regard. But this is clear. We also cannot enjoy a full economic recovery, which we all desperately want, without knocking down this virus. That is an economic principle we have to realize as well.
Governor Inslee: (17:36)
So to the business owners and the employees right now, I want you to know you’re not alone. We have 7 million people, we’re going to look for every way to help you through this difficult time. During the pandemic, my office in partnership with the legislatures, and cities, and counties have distributed $25 million in grants to SA to small businesses. And that has saved thousands of jobs. We’ve also provided a hundred million dollars for rental assistance.
Governor Inslee: (18:05)
And today I’m announcing another effort to reduce the hardship of this pandemic that has brought to business and workers. And I’m committed another $50 million to help mitigate impacts on businesses and workers. And we fully intend to get that money out as soon as possible, this will be in grants, combination of grants and loans, before the end of the year. And we’re doing some pretty creative work and being able to do that and leverage some other dollars as well. I have more to say about that in the upcoming weeks and days.
Governor Inslee: (18:36)
So we’re going to work with our partners to get this aid out as swiftly as we can to folks who have been bitten by this. But we know that it’s not enough, this is not going to ameliorate all the economic suffering by a long shot, but it’s what we’ve been able to do so far. And I’m going to redouble my efforts. And I hope everybody who’s listening to this. We’ll redouble your efforts to get the federal government to step up to the play. We have some big problems because unemployment compensation, which has been so important, will run out fairly shortly. And the Congress has not re-instituted the business support plan yet. It needs to do both those things.
Governor Inslee: (19:18)
Washingtonians, Americans deserve that, and we ought to continue to lift our insistence that they get that job done. But we’re also looking at some alternatives if the federal government does not. And I will be talking to legislators about other alternatives to help businesses and help employees if in fact the Congress does not act. I do know… I want to say that employers who have not yet used the Paycheck Protection Plan, forgivable loans, businesses can still apply through the Small Business Administration at their local bank.
Governor Inslee: (19:52)
We are going to regrow our economy. I’m very confident of that. Part because we created the best economy in the state and the country before COVID hit us. And I believe we are going to knock down this virus, but we need to act today. Today’s announcement does not change our guidance for childcare services or for K-12 education. Their guidance and its recommendations will remain in place for now. We know childcare is critical, especially for essential and frontline workers. And we know how critical education is for our young folks.
Governor Inslee: (20:29)
So far, the experience with schools in Washington and across the nation show that health and safety measures, when rigorously enforced, can limit COVID transmission in the school environment. At this time, we’re not asking districts currently offering instruction to close, unless the local health officer advised him to change course. And the local school board makes that decision as you know.
Governor Inslee: (20:58)
We have some guest speakers today. I’m very pleased We have a state health officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy, Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan, King County executive ow Constantine. We’re also joined by Dr. George Diaz of the Providence Health Center in Everett, and Clint Wallace, an ICU nurse in the COVID unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. So, Dr. Lofy.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (21:25)
Thank you, Governor Inslee, and good morning, everyone. The current trajectory of this pandemic has put us in a really difficult position as a state, as the governor just mentioned. We don’t make these decisions lightly. So I do want to talk to you all a little bit about the rationale behind some of the new restrictions that the governor just announced.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (21:47)
So first, we are extremely concerned about how quickly COVID-19 is spreading through our state. We have entered a phase of accelerated or exponential growth of the outbreak. As the governor mentioned during the past two weeks, the number of cases reported each day in our state has more than doubled from about a thousand cases reported per day to more than 2200 cases reported per day. If that doubling time continues in two more weeks, we’ll be seeing over 4,000 cases per day.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (22:18)
Especially concerning is that during the past week the number of patients currently in our hospitals with COVID-19 increased about 40%, 401 on November 6th to 566 on November 13th. This slide demonstrates that this is a state-wide problem. We have high disease rates throughout the state, as indicated in the dark orange. And many counties are seeing a dramatic uptick in disease activity. This increase is simply not sustainable.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (22:53)
We will eventually see the capacity and our hospitals to adequately care for all patients, including patients with and without COVID, and ultimately will lead to more deaths. When cases are accelerating, we need to act early. Because the effects of the measures that we put in place this week will not be shown in the data for another three weeks. So we don’t want to wait until we are dark red on the map that you can currently see, that is too late.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (23:26)
Second, I want to talk to you all about the rationale for the specific measures that governor just announced. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about how this virus is transmitted. We initially thought it was spread primarily through large droplets that only traveled a few feet in the air and rapidly fell to the ground. We now know that this virus can also spread through very small droplets called aerosols that are expelled from our mouths when we talk, cough, sneeze, and sing. And can linger in the air.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (23:58)
We also know that a primary risk factor for spreading the virus is contact with an infected person in indoor spaces. The infection risk increases with the duration and the proximity of contact with an infected individual, with certain activities when masks are not worn and where ventilation is not good. The CDC recently acknowledged growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and travel distances beyond six feet during choir practice, in restaurants, and in fitness classes.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (24:35)
Many of the measures the governor has taken today are intended to reduce opportunities for prolonged close contact indoors with people outside of our household. Even though we know more about how the virus spreads, in many cases, it’s not possible to pinpoint exactly where COVID-19 is being transmitted in our communities. And this problem is not unique to watch it and stake. When we interview cases, it’s often difficult to determine what’s …
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (25:03)
When we interview cases it’s often difficult to determine with certainty where the individual was infected because they often have more than one potential exposure and because many people may not remember all their activities in the 14 days before becoming ill or may not want to share all their activities with us. Occasionally we can identify where two or more people have been infected which we consider an outbreak but these identified outbreaks likely only represent a portion of transmission that’s occurring in the community and we likely are only detecting a fraction of these outbreaks.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (25:37)
So with limited data on where transmission is occurring in Washington, we also rely on the science around how the virus is spread and reports of outbreak investigations from other areas. Our leading national infectious disease experts at the Infectious Disease Society of America have stated that eating indoors in restaurants, going to an indoor gym, attending a church service with singing, going to bars and going to movie theaters are activities that put us at high risk for spread of COVID-19. A recent CDC study also reported that dining in a restaurant, bar or coffee shop was associated with an increased risk for COVID-19.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (26:19)
Flattening this curve is essential to saving lives and ensuring that our hospitals don’t become overwhelmed with COVID cases like we’re seeing in many hospitals in the Midwest and elsewhere in the country. If we act now, we can be successful, and with that, I’ll turn it back over to you, Governor.
Governor Inslee: (26:39)
Thank you Dr. Lofy and thank you for your steadfast science throughout these efforts. I have really appreciated it. We now have Clint Wallace who is with an ICU nurse at the Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Clint, thanks for joining us.
Clint Wallace: (26:56)
Thank you Governor. Thanks for having me. I’m just here to speak on behalf of a lot of the nurses and healthcare workers throughout this state. We’ve been in this pandemic for eight months now and we are exhausted. We are tired. Hospital preparedness is more about having beds and ventilators. It’s about having adequate staffing and staff that have the energy to take care of these patients. These patients require more than a normal patient. They require continuous monitoring, they require a change of PPE both entering the room and leaving the room. It’s critical that hospitals and the community listen to other healthcare workers and what they need to do to safely care for our patients. We are close as a whole in healthcare workers to being burnt out and we are pleading with the community of Washington and throughout the world to follow the directions and advice of our healthcare experts.
Clint Wallace: (28:03)
I’ve been an ICU nurse for close to 20 years and this is as busy as I’ve seen it. Our capacity for staff is exceeding 100%. It’s been difficult for staff for so long and we have used our emotions, our physical abilities, our vacation time for the last eight months and we are needing the community to pull together. We’re needing everyone to put aside their political and financial motives and follow the directions of our health experts. We need help. We need everybody’s help. Thank you Governor.
Governor Inslee: (28:56)
Well thank you Clint and I know [inaudible 00:28:59] appreciate the heroism of you and your colleagues throughout the medical system. It’s been extraordinary to see what you do every day and I for one think that’s a fair request, to help you out a little bit here. I hope people will do so because we know you are kind of at the end of your rope. So I hope that people will listen to your plea. I think it is a fair one. Please give our thanks to all your colleagues. We have Mayor Durkan of Seattle. Mayor Durkan.
Jenny Durkan: (29:39)
Thank you Governor. Thank you for your leadership and for your introduction today. I remain grateful that you and our public health officials continue to understand the dangers of COVID-19 for our community. I have the honor of serving as one of 11 mayors that sits on a global panel of mayors talking about global COVID recovery. There is no part of the globe, no part of this country, that is immune to this disease and we have been at the forefront here in Washington State, King County and Seattle and the other cities fighting this pandemic from the beginning and I thank you and my fellow electeds for their leadership but mostly I thank the people of our region and particularly for the city of Seattle because people have unselfishly every time we have asked them to do something done so. We all wish we were in a different place and that we did not have to take these actions today. I know that there is an unprecedented amount of complications and challenges that you face as governor and I appreciate your leadership in this. We know you’re doing this to save lives and that at every step of the way we must speak as one as elected officials and public health officials.
Jenny Durkan: (30:51)
We also know as you [inaudible 00:30:53] how devastating, how devastating this virus has been for so many families, so many businesses, and so many workers and we will double our efforts to address that as the governments. We know that as the regional epicenter of COVID-19, we were the first to face this pandemic and that you and other local officials standing up together helped us reach first flattening the curve and not ending up like some other places. Since the start of the pandemic, I want to call out Seattle residents and businesses because they have been taking the public health guidance so seriously and their actions have saved lives. Of the largest 30 cities in America, Seattle has the lowest hospitalization per capita. We also have the lowest death numbers. When I think how terrible this year has been for so many, I think how hard it is to make these decisions to change the trajectory of this deadly virus.
Jenny Durkan: (31:55)
But we know what happens if we don’t. Right now there are cities with no ICU capacity. There are cities like El Paso which is just slightly smaller than Seattle that now has 10 refrigeration trucks using as morgues and 150 deaths since November 1. This spring and summer we all witnessed the horrific images of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers at overwhelmed hospitals. I want to thank Cliff and all the frontline healthcare workers for their devotion and their work. We all can make a difference for them. They are our first and our last defense. We owe it to them and to our communities to take steps. Together, we in Washington can make a difference. While we have one of the lowest rates of any major city, Seattle is not immune to the surge of this virus in our state and county either. Just in the last week, we have had more than 100 … Nationwide, we have had more than a million cases and 181,000 on Friday. In Washington State as you mentioned there’s been record levels and in Puget Sound every county and city are seeing a rise.
Jenny Durkan: (33:08)
We looked at our own data and found that in Seattle, nearly 20% of total cases are just from the last two weeks. I want to say that again, that means one out of every five cases of COVID for the seven month period is just from the last two weeks and we know that the health and economic impacts of this virus have disproportionately hit our communities of color and our vulnerable communities. We are lucky that we have not seen the hospitalization that others have but it is increasing in Seattle. This virus is surging everywhere and that’s why Governor, I want to thank you and all the nurses, doctors and public health officials who are doing so much to protect all of us. Acting today [inaudible 00:33:56] saving more lives in the future but as you noted, these new restrictions and these economic impacts are going to be hard. These times have been devastating for so many, so many families and small businesses. People are hurting. There’s no doubt that any restrictions will cause further economic impacts in Seattle and across our state.
Jenny Durkan: (34:19)
As Seattle implements these new restrictions from the state, we are committed to finding ways to support our small businesses, particularly our restaurants. In March, we launched the first in the nation small business grant program. We reopened that fund this past week and I will be exploring all options to increase that fund to help people on an emergency basis. In the coming days, I will also be proposing a small business relief package to include more assistance for small businesses, more flexibility for outdoor dining, and other measures to help people through the holidays and the rest of the year. We have hundreds of businesses and restaurants using our curb space for takeout and other things and we will continue to fast-track those programs. Seattle will continue to provide direct financial aid to our workers and small businesses. We worked quickly to launch the COVID-19 relief program including rent relief, expanding shelter for people experiencing homelessness, grocery vouchers for working families, direct cash assistance for immigrants and refugees, and financial assistance for small businesses. Ultimately, Governor, we will rely on the state to provide as much emergency aid as we can and all of us need the federal government to do its job and to step up and to immediately pass a COVID-19 relief package that really meets the needs of our communities.
Jenny Durkan: (35:49)
We in government will continue to do all we can to really help through this virus, from the testing programs the city of Seattle has set up to the relief packages. I again want to thank you and your team. We know for every family out there that the coming weeks are going to be so difficult. It is a time we are used to getting together and now we have to be apart. But this is how we will save lives and go into the future. I also believe that we will have a vaccine and that hopefully this time next year, we will be having a much different conversation and getting a much different kinds of Thanksgiving. This virus is unrelenting, and our efforts to beat it have to be just as unrelenting. I want to thank everybody who has done so much to get us to where we are. I want to urge everyone in the city of Seattle, please show some love for your local businesses. Go and buy from your local restaurants and your local retail shops. This is the holidays, the time when they really rely on so much of that for their well-being and for their workers. Thank you Governor.
Governor Inslee: (36:58)
Thank you Madame Mayor. I want to thank all of your colleague mayors who have been so creative helping businesses with curbside delivery and takeout and outdoor dining. You’ve shown a lot of creativity to help these businesses and we need to redouble that. So thanks to all the mayors out there who have been working on that. By the way, one comment. I know all of us would like to have sort of the financial aspects of this totally resolved when we announce this today. That’s going to take some work, but we had to get this done today because again, time is of the essence here. What we know is if you act early, you can save lives and if you don’t you’ll be swamped by a tsunami of this virus. We’re acting early and appropriately I believe. Dow Constantine, executive of King County.
Dow Constantine: (37:48)
Thank you Governor and I really appreciate being invited to share a few thoughts this morning. Like everywhere in the state, our case counts are soaring and that is also true nationally. The number of hospitalizations in King County last week increased by over 70% compared to the previous four weeks. In fact it was just earlier this week that I was reflecting that our hospitalizations had not increased dramatically and then later that afternoon, I was informed that we had seen a 30% increase in one day in hospital bed use so there are now twice as many people in local hospitals with COVID-19 as there were just a month ago. This is the most critical issue. As has been mentioned, we have to reverse this trend before our hospitals become overwhelmed. We really need to reverse the trend before our essential workers including nurses and doctors fall ill and no longer serve our community and yes thank you, Clint Wallace, for your service and your really impactful words this morning.
Dow Constantine: (39:03)
Every generation has made sacrifices. This is our moment. Of course a sacrifice is not evenly shared. It’s difficult to imagine but only members of our household will be able to gather at the Thanksgiving table this year. The relatives and friends we usually see at the holidays will be with us only by phone or by video but this sacrifice as personal as it feels is minor compared to what many restaurateurs and retailers and other businesses and their workers face. We owe them as was just mentioned our patronage and we owe them financial assistance. We owe it to ourselves to preserve the jobs and the businesses that make our communities what they are and I am glad to hear about the additional aid that the governor has just announced. The governor’s announcement this morning is the right thing to do under the dire circumstances we now face. I appreciate that for many local businesses, it means continued hardship and for many residents, it means not only financial strain but continued isolation. But these steps do appear right now to be necessary to bring this virus under control and the more we do this together, the more we can take aggressive and collective action, the faster it can return to normalcy.
Dow Constantine: (40:40)
Beyond the restrictions and the aid announced by the governor, King County is taking actions including hiring and onboarding 25 additional contact tracers to add to our core group of 70. We have already added four new test sites in South King County where the instance rate of coronavirus is twice that of King County as a whole and we are pushing forward and adding even more test sites. We are launching a pilot to provide basic supports to the lowest income residents who must isolate or quarantine because of coronavirus but that may not be a viable option for them financially. We want to make sure they don’t have to go into work and risk infecting others. That’s paid for from COVID funds and we locally are out of COVID funds. We need federal resources for wage replacement and paycheck protection, for rental assistance and food security and childcare and behavioral health supports and of course for public health funding.
Dow Constantine: (41:50)
This pandemic will not last forever and there is good news on the horizon with vaccines and I want to point out that people are really doing a good job following the public health guidance. People in Washington State, people in King County are being conscientious. 93% of Washingtonians are wearing masks in the appropriate circumstances. Despite the darkness of this winter, we have every reason to be optimistic that a brighter, sunnier day is ahead. But until that day, we have to act, individually and collectively to save lives, to save health. Physical health, mental health. To save businesses and the cultural institutions that make our communities great places to live and simply to take care of one another and to take care of this place we love. So let’s take all the necessary steps, all the steps that we can to keep every person safe. To ensure that every person is able to get through to the other side. [inaudible 00:43:02]
Governor Inslee: (43:04)
Thank you Dow. I appreciate it. I look forward to working with you on this business plans along with the mayor and your colleagues and I appreciate you saying, giving a shout out to the people who are helping. Look, our mask compliance has been really high in retail areas. This has been great, it’s one of the reasons we’ve recently had … 45 other states had more infections than we did. So we know that Washingtonians can do it. We just need to up our game a little bit. With that, we have Dr. Diaz. Dr. Diaz.
Governor Inslee: (43:40)
Yeah, go ahead.
George Diaz: (43:41)
Firstly I would like to thank Governor Inslee and Dr. Kathy Lofy for their leadership through the pandemic. Their policies and guidelines have kept Washingtonians safe and have positioned us much better than many other states around the country. I have colleagues around the country where they’re telling me that their hospitals are full, their ICUs are full and in many cases they are transferring patients out of state to receive care. Thankfully the leadership here in this state has resulted in us being in a much better position overall than other states around the country. Despite this we are seeing significant rises in cases and action is certainly warranted right now. Within Snohomish County for example despite many medical advances in treatment where we’re saving more lives as well as advances in managing of COVID through telehealth, we’re still seeing a rapid rise in hospitalizations in Snohomish County. We’re also seeing deaths associated with hospitalization and more importantly we’re also seeing a rapid rise in a number of people in the ICU. Many of these patients remain in the ICU for a prolonged period of time and they accumulate and quickly take up ICU beds.
George Diaz: (44:47)
We’re also seeing within our county that vulnerable populations are being affected disproportionately. We have seen large outbreaks within nursing homes in our county and also other communities such as the Hispanic community which has been very hard hit. Right now without action we may not be able to continue to offer care for both COVID patients and offer some medical services and non-urgent surgeries as well. It’s critically important that we take action now to prevent this from happening.
George Diaz: (45:16)
As mentioned before we have really heroic staff across the state with hospital workers who have stepped up to the challenge of the pandemic but they are taxed and these actions will hopefully provide relief to them. We do want to reiterate that it is important for patients to continue to seek care at hospitals. They are safe places to go and we did see quite a few bad outcomes in the spring when people were delaying care for things like stroke and heart attacks, so we want people to continue to come to the hospital to receive care. These policies aren’t going to be in place forever and we’re currently working closely with the Department of Health to develop a plan for vaccine distribution which will hopefully begin in the next month or two and we can begin to vaccine our population. Thank you.
Governor Inslee: (45:58)
Thanks Dr. Diaz [inaudible 00:45:59] medical community is doing. I do want to note that because of the genius in the medical community, the mortality of people who do go to a hospital has been reduced a few percentage points but despite those … [inaudible 00:46:12] improvements, the fatalities are still going up rather markedly in the state of Washington. So we’re going to try to keep helping you outside the hospital as much as we can, Dr. Diaz.
Governor Inslee: (46:23)
I have some other comments before we turn to questions. One thing we hope that people realize right now is that we hope we don’t have hoarding going on in our stores. That is really not necessary and most unhelpful right now. Our supply chain is strong and buying up everything you can get your hands on really hurts everybody and there’s just no necessity of it right now. Because we’ve had some hardworking people who have been willing to stay in the agricultural industry even in difficult times, we’ve got a good supply chain for food and things we need. So you don’t need to shop often or in larger amounts. We also hope that Washingtonians can help our local health officials. These folks are really doing some tough jobs right now. Look, these are hard decisions at the local level and I hope people can show them support and respect. I know sometimes the politics has intruded and they’ve been subject to a lot of pressure that is not helpful [inaudible 00:47:19] science-based decisions. I hope people can support these folks in their professional duties.
Governor Inslee: (47:26)
I just want to close before I take questions by saying this. Look, these are dangerous days but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just clear, really good news so far in a vaccine. Good news on therapy, better news on hospital care and so we will continue to fight and we will continue to adapt and persevere. It may be months until we’re in the clear but advances are going on every day medically and we ought to celebrate that. Right now, we need action, action this day. It was interesting, I was thinking about these decisions we’re making, these are tough decisions because they have such profound ramifications on life itself and people’s businesses and somebody asked me this morning, “How do you decide when to do things like this?” I remember talking to Dr. Fauci months ago about this and he told me that if you’re making decisions and they’re really uncomfortable, if they really seem overly burdensome, that’s when you need to make them. Because if you wait till there’s gurneys stacked up in the halls of the hospitals, it’s just too late. So we’re making decisions based on confidence, on being resolute, and I know we will continue to be vigilant.
Governor Inslee: (48:47)
Because of this and when you think about this, there is something that we should be thankful for among many blessings this year and that is this is under our control. This is not like an earthquake that we can’t stop or an asteroid or a giant flood. This is totally under our control. We decide whether we’re going to get the COVID to some degree or whether we’re going to give it to someone else. Because we have the knowledge about how to avoid that which is to avoid being inside close to a person, breathing on them for prolonged periods. We have the tools at our disposal. This is in our hands. We make a decision whether this pandemic is going to swallow us whole. We make a decision whether we’re going to eventually recover our economy. We make the decision whether we’re going to show our loved ones that we really love them and by just avoiding these dangerous situations. So that’s what we’re doing today. We’re demonstrating that love and we’re demonstrating the ability to use the tools we have, including our heads, to do things to save lives.
Governor Inslee: (49:56)
I want to just close by saying too, we’re doing some restrictions today about economic activities but maybe the most –
Governor Inslee: (50:03)
Today about economic activities, but maybe the single most important message that I hope Washingtonians will embrace is that, probably the most dangerous place in the state of Washington right now is in our own homes, on our couches and our chairs at our dining room tables, because these are the places we’re going to more often, where we love to socialize, where we love to have people over for dinner, where we would look forward to a giant Thanksgiving dinner, where we’d love to have a Seahawk celebration. And it’s so easy to become infected by the people you love or vice versa, it’s so easy.
Governor Inslee: (50:41)
I felt this same way. I was thinking about a guy I’ve known for 50 years and you think, “Well, he’s okay. He’s okay. He’s a great guy.” But neither he or I know whether he or I have COVID right now. And if I’m going to see him, it’s going to be outside. So I hope people think about this in their decisions individually and their families. If we do, we’re going to knock this pandemic down. With that, we’re happy to stand for questions. We also have Nick [inaudible 00:51:11], our director of external relations. Who’s done yeoman work on these efforts.
Speaker 1: (51:16)
Clarification on [inaudible 00:51:17].
Governor Inslee: (51:20)
Just a clarification. Our state unemployment insurance benefits will not run out, not our state portion. I just wanted to clarify that. Go ahead.
Speaker 2: (51:26)
Right. With that up first we will go to Rachel with AP. Go ahead Rachel.
Governor, you and health officials had previously said that in-home gatherings are mainly to blame for these most recent increases. So why put additional restrictions on businesses that have already been requiring customer and employee masking and distancing? And then is there any enforcement plan related to the quarantine COVID test requirements for home gatherings?
Governor Inslee: (51:56)
Yeah. Thanks for those two questions. Look, we have to reduce these transmissions any place we can. And the nature of your question, this is not an exercise in culpability or guilt or even responsibility. Look, the business owners, the restaurant owners, they’re not doing anything wrong having a restaurant, and this is not an effort to punish them. They’ve been doing some really good work trying to reduce the risk associated with these businesses. So this is not a matter of trying to assign blame or respective responsibility, it’s just that because of the combination of this virus and the winter, we have to identify every single environment where this transmission can take place. That certainly includes our homes as I just alluded to, but it also includes restaurants, gyms, businesses of a whole bunch of different natures, all kinds of social activity.
Governor Inslee: (52:58)
So here’s the scientific fact, we have to close this window of transmission, every window we can to close. And that’s just a scientific fact. So it’s not based on arguing about responsibility. It’s arguing about how are we going to save lives? And this is a way to do it. Now, I am hopeful that people in their individual lives, in their homes, help out as well, because you’re helping us recover our economy. If you avoid a dinner where you might be infecting someone, that’s one step further to when we can restore a whole economic recovery. So we can all help each other in this regard.
Governor Inslee: (53:44)
As far as enforcement, look, you’re not going to expect state troopers coming to your door if you have a big Thanksgiving dinner, but by having a requirement legally, we do hope people who want to abide by the law will abide by the law, which is to not have these unnecessary social interactions, which are dangerous right now. And we’re hopeful that that will raise the consciousness of this issue. And we know scientifically it really works because we did it last spring. And the more of us do now going into the winter, the better off that we will be.
Speaker 2: (54:24)
Rachel, did you want to ask a follow-up question?
Yeah. The state’s hospitality association is estimating that a hundred thousand people could lose their jobs right before the holidays because of these restrictions. So can you talk a bit about the 50 million in federal aid that you discussed earlier? Is that money that’s already in hand and how will that be used to offset these potential impacts? Yeah,
Governor Inslee: (54:45)
Yes, that is in hand. And we just have to figure out the distribution mechanism. As I’ve indicated, it’ll probably be grants and loans to businesses, but the employees obviously we’re also super concerned about, and that’s why we want to make sure that the federal government acts to extend the federal part of unemployment insurance. We’d like to consider other measures of providing safety nets for these families with nutrition assistance. As you know, we’ve extended the eviction moratorium, but we, in the upcoming days will be looking for other ways to support them. So look forward to some other progress in that regard.
Speaker 2: (55:29)
All right. Up next, we’ll go to David Goodman with the Seattle times. Go ahead, David.
Governor Inslee: (55:34)
And by the way, I should mention this, for standard unemployment insurance, so if you become unemployed tomorrow because of this or any other legitimate reason, that fund is solvent, the dollars are there to do this. People do not have to worry that the unemployment insurance suddenly would not be able to finance these benefits. That’s not a problem. It is a stable system. So you don’t have to worry about that.
Speaker 2: (56:00)
Right. David Goodman, go ahead.
Dow Constantine: (56:03)
Hi Governor, two questions. One, do you have an estimate on how long these new restrictions and shutdowns will be in place? And two, what’s the effect on these new regulations on sporting events? Are the Seahawks and Huskies going to still be playing in Washington? And if so, why?
Governor Inslee: (56:26)
Yeah, this is four weeks. These restrictions are limited to four weeks. We would hope that we will have progress and that, that would be the limit of these restrictions. Obviously, no one has any guarantees on that, but four weeks is about the minimal length of time where we would have a reasonable way of assessing whether this is having an impact or not. So it is our hope that it would be limited to four weeks. The sporting industry does not change in any way that I can think of at the moment, the Seahawks or the Cougars and Huskies, in their endeavors.
Speaker 2: (57:03)
David, did you want to ask a follow-up?
Dow Constantine: (57:06)
Yeah. If you’re asking people in their own outdoor gatherings to limit it to five people outside their household, why are we having professional football games with 50 people outside their household gathered together?
Governor Inslee: (57:21)
Well, for one thing, these teams on the college and pro level have been able to demonstrate their rigorous protocols, including very rigorous testing hygiene, that we think gives us a good degree of confidence that can be done safely. When you get into informal situations where you don’t have anyone checking every day whether you’ve stayed in the bubble and whether you’ve done the testing, it’s a very, very different situation. Nick, would you like to address that at all?
I think you covered it very well, Governor. The professional teams and the college teams have very rigorous plans that have been negotiated with the players association that involve very rigorous testing and lots of additional protocols.
Speaker 2: (58:09)
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Amy Marina with King five. Go ahead, Amy.
Yes Governor, I want to circle back to the issue regarding grocery stores. Back in the spring, we saw long lines outside the stores, and now we are going into a difficult time of the year weather-wise. We had issues with seniors getting inside the stores, people with different disabilities. Was that weighed in, in terms of putting that 25% restriction on capacity? Considering grocery stores aren’t even in the top five in the outbreak data you guys have on the state website. Did you consider that this could make it difficult for some people just to get to the grocery store if they’re looking at a long line out in front?
Governor Inslee: (58:52)
Yeah this is not a change. They currently are limited to 30 of their capacity. It’s gone from 30 to 25%. So this is a very minimal change, and that was done principally so that we have sort of equity across multiple endeavors and industries to have this 25% capacity. The reason we are not seeing, at least identified outbreaks in stores, is because we are doing these things of capacity limitations and masking and the like. And in grocery stores, you can wear a mask in your transaction with other shoppers or other people. This is the difference between grocery stores and restaurants, frankly. And we have found that we can limit transmission dramatically in circumstances where you can keep your mask on. And this has been really, really fortunate for all of us. So I don’t think that this should increase lines to any significant degree at all.
Speaker 2: (59:47)
Amy, did you want to ask a follow-up question?
Yeah, one more question. We’re seeing a lot of small businesses in our state shut down because they just can’t hang on any more. What kind of help is there for those small businesses that just can’t make it anymore?
Governor Inslee: (01:00:01)
Well, as we talked about, today I’ve announced another $50 million that will be available for small businesses in grants and loans. The exact nature of that on how to distribute that dollars, we’re working on that. We’ll have more to say about that in the upcoming days. So that’s $50 million that is going to help some folks, but I don’t want to think that’s going to solve everybody’s problem. The problem is much bigger than that. And that is one reason why we want to urge the Congress to act, to restore that paycheck protection fund, to restore grants to small businesses. It’s absolutely critical. Look, the federal government has resources that dwarf any state, obviously, and they’re able frankly, to go into the bond market and borrow money so that we can finance this and they definitely should do that.
Governor Inslee: (01:00:51)
So all of us who feel as I do the pain of the small business people, ought to be pounding the doors of the Congress and the new president, who I’m glad we’re going to have, to really get this job done. But as I’ve said, we’re going to do everything that we can do. And as I’ve also said, there are things we want to look at in addition to the unemployment compensation system that will be there, and as I’ve said is stable for employees. We’re examining what we can do on the nutrition basis or other methods to help people out.
Speaker 2: (01:01:33)
Okay. Up next, we’ll go to Jim Camden with the spokesman review. Go ahead, Jim,
[inaudible 01:01:39] what enforcement do you anticipate in any areas of the state like Spokane when people can go across the state line to go to a restaurant, a bar or other gathering places, what sort of restrictions or enforcement do you have for things like that?
Governor Inslee: (01:01:57)
Well, obviously I don’t have jurisdiction in Idaho. I have urged the Idaho leaders to show some leadership. One of the reasons we have such jammed up hospitals in Spokane is because Idaho, frankly has not done some of the things that we have found successful. I was stunned at the same week where I heard that Idaho from Kootenai County may ship patients here to Oregon, that they’d abandoned their mask requirement. That’s just irresponsible. I don’t know what else to say about it. So we hope Idaho over time will be more aggressive and responsible frankly, to reduce the burden on the Spokane medical system. That’s a hope. We’re not going to have any border patrols on this, we have too many interrelationships with people crossing the border. We will have enforcement of businesses obviously in our jurisdiction to make sure that they comply. Fortunately, we’ve had very, very good compliance with our businesses that are in the state of Washington. I’m very appreciative of that. Look, this is tough for business owners to have to comply with this, this is tough. And the huge majority of them have been doing this. We appreciate that.
Speaker 2: (01:03:12)
Jim, did you want to ask a follow-up question?
Yeah. As part of the aggressive and collective action that people are talking about, will you bring the legislature back into special session before the end of the year to try and work out some of these ideas on assistance for businesses?
Governor Inslee: (01:03:30)
Yeah, it is possible. We don’t have any current plans to do this. As you know, we talked to the legislators about use of the cares funding. I’m relatively confident we’ll get the $50 million out. If we come up with a new way of helping before January one that could get into place before then, I wouldn’t have qualms asking people to come back and I believe they would. Right now, we don’t have any plans to do this at the moment.
Speaker 2: (01:04:00)
All right. Up next, we’ll go to Cole Miller with Camo 4. Go ahead, Cole.
Hi there Governor, thank you for your time this morning. One question that I had was in regards to the employment, or EDS. Clearly there were troubles with this system, as we saw some folks waiting 10, 12, 14 weeks to get unemployment benefits. What can you do to assure folks who may be going back into that system or into that system for the first time that we won’t see the backlog and headaches that we did this spring?
Governor Inslee: (01:04:31)
Well, if we’re successful in doing what we’re calling for today, and we can avoid a similar surge in unemployment associated with this pandemic, we can give people confidence. But if this pandemic continues to run rampant and we have to take more restrictive actions like we did in March. Our March stay at home order was much more restrictive than this and caused much more short term unemployment by orders of magnitude, probably. So we’re trying to avoid that. And so if this works, we’ll be able to avoid that surge to take another step that could cause more rampant unemployment. Now, I take issue with one thing you said, look, the problem here is not the department. The problem is the pandemic, the virus. The virus caused 10 times more people to need unemployment insurance overnight. It took months for the department to build up its capacity to answer that need, no business can ramp up by a factor of 10 overnight.
Governor Inslee: (01:05:35)
They have rammed up dramatically their capacity, and there’s sort of a stable backlog at the moment that’s not increasing. And they continue to try to use creative work to get that whittled down as far as humanly possible. So long and short of it, I don’t think it will get significantly worse unless we had to go another step in a direction reducing economic activity. But this is not, I shouldn’t say it’s not Nirvana in that system because our numbers still are dramatically higher obviously than they were pre COVID. I will also say that, and this doesn’t make anybody feel better but it is a relevant fact, virtually every state in the country has this problem because all of the States got hit with this 10 fold increase of cases. And as a result, they’ve all struggled with this and we’re going to do everything humanly possible in are, I’m actually meeting the director of the department Monday to talk about some new creative ways we hope to even accelerate some of the adjudications.
Speaker 2: (01:06:49)
Cole, did you want to ask a follow-up question?
Thank you Governor. Yes, just real quickly. If you could, again, touch on the four week restriction that’s what we’re looking at now, that four week window, have the metrics changed at all for what you’ll be looking at as to whether or not those restrictions will stay in place or continue on? Or are we looking at the same metrics that you announced earlier in the year?
Governor Inslee: (01:07:13)
Well, we’re not announcing different metrics today, so there’s nothing I can tell you will change at the end of four weeks. We hope that this will demonstrate a reduced rate of increase in the infection at a minimum. We hope that we will achieve that, that’s the metric that we will be looking at.
Speaker 2: (01:07:37)
All right, up next, we’ll go to Sarah Gensler with McClatchy. Go ahead, Sarah.
All right, thank you Governor. I understand the broad logic behind the restrictions themselves and how that’s based on science and under these rules, there will still be some multiple control for K through 12, so can you specifically speak to the logic of shifting from a County by County approach to a statewide action for the other restrictions?
Governor Inslee: (01:08:02)
Yes. What we have found is that the pandemic is broad enough in enough places, East, West, North, and South, that if we just tried to do this on a County by County basis, there was not enough difference if you will. And the proximity, these centers are close enough that you end up not being able to have any sort of effective reduction of social activity or interactions, bottom line. And that’s frustrating because there are differences from one precinct to another, one zip code to another. I’ll give you an example, South King County has a much higher rate of infection than the Central Northern part of King County. And in the abstract, you could have tighter restrictions in South King County and looser in North King County or Central King County, but that means people just drive one zip code over, it’s only a mile away, and you just can’t really parse out, in a jigsaw puzzle way, this state given how broad based this infection is.
Governor Inslee: (01:09:10)
And could you put that chart up again of the country. I’m going to ask Sam to put up this chart showing the infections rates in the United States. When we started this, and we were the first hit, of course, we’d have these little nodes, these little pockets, and we could defend against it. And that was also true within the state. We had higher rates in one place than another and we could sort of really jump on those nodes. Now it’s just much more diffused and changing very rapidly. And the rapidity of this thing is stunning to me. Look, I studied this like I breathe since this started. And three weeks ago we were in a relatively stable position or four weeks ago and there was a good reason to hope that this surge would not be something catastrophic and boom, it just hit us like bricks.
Governor Inslee: (01:10:08)
I’d get up in the morning and see our daily numbers of 600, just a few weeks ago, and now it’s 2200 this morning. So this is an explosive situation that we’re in. And when you have an explosive fire, you’ve got to respond anywhere those embers can land. And those embers are landing all over our state right now.
Speaker 2: (01:10:28)
Sarah, did you want to ask a follow-up question?
Just real quick, what is the then difference between that and schools? Is it that they’re more hyper-local or why the difference in the approach there?
Governor Inslee: (01:10:48)
Because schools have been historically a local control decisions by local school boards and local communities. And we have respected that decision-making of local communities. We have given recommendations. We have tried to share science with them. Now, I will say one or the thing as well. And I think there’s an emerging science of schools. And again, this is not totally clear cut, but it does appear that numerous schools are being able to show to the surprise of many, a way to have particularly younger students in on-site education that has not resulted in broad sped, communicable transmission.
Governor Inslee: (01:11:29)
And the reason is, they’ve been able to find a way not to have students talking to one another without masks, like happens in restaurants. And they have found a way to spread students out, maybe have hybrid programs. And we’ve had a number of districts that have been quite successful in the state in this regard. So we did not believe it was in our place to close those down.
Speaker 2: (01:11:55)
All right, up next we’ll go to Debra Horn with Cairo seven. Go ahead, Debra.
Good morning, good afternoon, Governor. Thanks for holding this conversation so that we can talk about this. I do have a couple of questions were being asked. What about manufacturing jobs and construction? I guess the main question is, you’ve left out a lot of entities, manufacturing, construction, my having my hair done, that sort of thing, are those places that are not going to be affected by this? And what is the reasoning as to why not?
Governor Inslee: (01:12:29)
Really important questions. Basically, we had sort of two choices, not three. No action, that was not an option. So we didn’t seriously consider that. The other was to do what we did in March that did address most of those entities that you talked about. We decided to not go down that route because we wanted to have, as much as we can, reduced economic dislocation for families and businesses. And bottom line is we thought by addressing the businesses where, by necessity, you had unmasked interaction inside with close work or transmission going on, we thought there’s a reasonable chance that if we just deal with that type of environment, where people by necessity are in that kind of environment where they’re either close you’re unmasked, or you’re breathing hard for a length of time, that we have a reasonable chance of reducing this rate of this transmission.
Governor Inslee: (01:13:33)
If we can do that without more laid off construction workers or barbers or hairstylists, we thought it was worthwhile to go that route. And that’s the decision we made. We hope that it succeeds. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to look at other alternatives. Now, I will say you mentioned construction, I want to say this to the leaders in the construction industry, we have had some transmission on, we believe in some construction sites and we are not getting as much compliance as we need in the construction industry. And I would advise people in the construction industry, we’re going to be watching this very closely in the next several weeks. We need you to comply with the protocols. That includes masks, it includes hygiene. We need you to comply. We will be watching this in the next several weeks. We hope that we will get better compliance so we don’t have to consider other measures in construction.
Speaker 2: (01:14:33)
Debra, did you want to ask a follow-up question?
I would like to, if I may. I guess it goes along with [inaudible 00:24:40] of enforcement. As you know Governor, despite your best efforts and the best efforts of all of the people on this call, there are still people in this state who don’t believe that COVID-19 is an issue. Certainly it has not been one for them. And perhaps it has not been one for them, for those they love. How can you address that through the actions that you’re taking right now?
… that, through the actions that you’re taking right now?
Governor Inslee: (01:15:05)
Important question. You can do all you can do, and that’s what we’re doing. I don’t have a switch to throw that can convince people what I want to convince them. I can do everything I can do. And what we’re doing is sharing science with them. We are encouraging people to be leaders themselves. Hopefully, well, I know I’m not the only leader in the State of Washington. I may be Governor, but I’m not the only leader. Everybody’s a leader here. And one of the things I can do is to encourage people to be leaders in their own families. Everybody can be a leader here who celebrates Thanksgiving, to have a discussion with your family about how you’re going to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Everybody can be a leader in that regard, and I’m encouraging people to be leaders, have that conversation. Think about it. Talk to your family about it. That’s one way I can help out, because frankly, family members are going to be a lot more persuasive than I am on this subject, and I encourage those conversations.
Governor Inslee: (01:16:10)
And the one thing I would say is, yes, there’s going to be people … We’re a diverse state. We have diverse parties and beliefs, but the fact that someone is not complying with common sense and healthy behavior shouldn’t reduce our commitment to being healthy and responsible. It should increase it, frankly. So even though we know this is not going to be 100%, nothing’s ever going to be 100%, I don’t think that should dissuade us from doing what we can under our control. And as I said, this is under our control.
Governor Inslee: (01:16:53)
And I know this is really hard, but Trudy, who I thought was quite persuasive talking about Thanksgiving the other day, this morning, she heard this … What was it? An interview or a commercial somewhere. And it had a guy posing as a grandfather in 2060, and telling his grandchild what the year 2020 was like. And the grandchild was saying, “Well, did you March in the beaches of Normandy, or di you fight in whatever war?” And the grandfather, looking back, says, ” I did everything that was asked of me.” And the grandchild said, “What was asked of you? What did they ask you to do?” And he said, “Nothing. I was asked to do nothing. Nobody asked me to storm the beaches of Normandy. Nobody asked me to give blood. I just had to find a way not to infect other people, and I was able to do that.” And yeah, this is hard, but I think it’s something we can do.
Speaker 3: (01:17:58)
Time for a few more questions? Questions? Do you have questions?
Speaker 2: (01:18:01)
Yeah. I’ve got three more. Up next, we’ll go to Melissa Santos with Crosscut. Go ahead, Melissa.
Melissa Santos: (01:18:09)
Hi, there. Governor Inslee, We saw JT Wilcox, the House Minority Leader, has already said that House Republicans are ready to come back in a special session to pass more relief for businesses. Is that something you’re considering at all at this point, to call some special session of the legislature to pass relief for businesses and others in the state?
Governor Inslee: (01:18:30)
We will be exploring all options to help businesses and employees and everyone else affected by this. I don’t have a current plan other than the $50 million specifically that I’ve proposed in a revolving loan fund that we’re working on, but those may not require a special session. We might be able to do some of these things just by executive action. So at the moment, we’re not, we don’t believe that’s necessary, but if it is necessary, we can do that. And I’ll be talking to legislators, including Representative Wilcox, about any ideas he has about that. Now, we have to find a way to finance these things. We don’t print money, unlike Washington, DC, so people who do want to do this, we need them to help us figure out how to finance this. And that sometimes is a challenge.
Speaker 2: (01:19:17)
Melissa, did you want to ask a followup question?
Melissa Santos: (01:19:20)
Yes. Yes, I would. I heard about enforcement measures for the requirements on social gatherings, but what about for restaurants and others? Are you planning on ramping up enforcement for businesses compared to what we’ve seen in the past at this point, for these new restrictions?
Governor Inslee: (01:19:37)
We’re not planning on that. We are hopeful that we will have business leaders complying with the law as we have, and it’s been very gratifying. The vast, vast majority of business leaders have acted responsibly and made some really tough decisions. And we very much have appreciated that. So we’ve had some enforcement action. We will be willing and able to take that. If a restaurant stays open and if we ask them to come into and compliance and they refuse, they’re probably not going to have their liquor license pretty much longer. But those have been rare events, and I’m very appreciative of that.
Speaker 2: (01:20:16)
All right. We’ve got time for two more. Up next we’ll go to Austin Jenkins with Northwest News Network. Go ahead, Austin.
Austin Jenkins: (01:20:24)
Hi, Governor. It was just, I think, about six weeks ago or five weeks ago that you increased the allowed table size at restaurants from six in some places, even eight in other places. So now a month or so later, you’re shutting down restaurants. The industry says it’s responsible for fewer than one half of 1% of COVID cases, and they don’t believe that they’re contributing to this problem, and that they’re disproportionately affected by this. And I’m sure many of those restaurant owners would have preferred to stay at four tops if that meant they could stay open through the holidays. What’s this draconian action? Why not ease back and adjust back and give them a chance to stay open?
Governor Inslee: (01:21:11)
Because we knew a couple of things. Number one, taking action as we did, we have done this before, and it had an impact. It dramatically reduced the transmission. We know this works. One of the reasons we’re doing this is because we know it can work. Don’t tell me that this doesn’t work and that there’s not transmission in restaurants. These things we did jointly worked, and the proof was in the pudding. When we did them, when we reduced the incidence of people being close together in multiple environments, all of which in sum total gave us this massive infection rate, everything where you’re talking close to a person, you’re not wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time inside, is a contributing factor to this transmission. Now, no one knows the exact percentages of this because we don’t have a computer chip in everyone and be able to track every source of outbreak. We do know of the outbreaks we have been able to evaluate. The highest industrial participation on that have been restaurants. We do know that. We do know that in some research done by Google, that people who go to restaurants have had something like twice as higher level of transmission than those who do not. They’ve been able to track that through some of the Google information, looking at cell phone data. We know as a scientific fact that is undisputable that when you do sit close to someone and breathe on them, that’s a transmission risk. And every part of those transmissions play some part in this. And so everyone has a role in this, who creates those kinds of opportunities, which includes people at home.
Governor Inslee: (01:23:01)
Now, one of the things I think the restaurateurs, who deserve our respect and our empathy here, because they have done, I think yeoman service, trying to reduce the risks. They’ve been creative. They’ve been diligent in most circumstances, trying to help their employees be safe. They’ve moved tables around. Look, this is not anything that we should say they’ve been dilatory about. And they’re frustrated because they’re not the only place that transmission is taking place. More of them are probably taking place in the home, because we have more social interactions in our homes probably than restaurants. But the fact is, we have in virtually every circumstance that has that type of environment, we are now asking people to reduce their transmissions. Including in homes, including in gyms and bars and restaurants, and other places. So they’re not being singled out. They’re one of a group of good Washingtonians who are doing their best, whose current business model is not consistent with saving thousands of lives in our state. And that’s why we made the decision.
Governor Inslee: (01:24:15)
Now, on the change from a month or two ago, look, this is just a slippery beast, this COVID. As I said a month and a half ago, we were in a relatively good position, right? And we were concerned about a fall surge, but we were hoping it wouldn’t happen. Well, it has happened. And frankly, other States have not acted. And as a result, they have semi-trucks with ice because they don’t have any space in their morgues. They’re canceling surgeries. You can’t get your knee fixed or your heart surgery because there’s no room in the hospital, because they didn’t take early action this way. So we decided to take early action, and it is a difficult decision, believe me.
Speaker 2: (01:24:59)
Austin, did you want to ask a follow-up?
Austin Jenkins: (01:25:02)
Yeah. Just briefly on the vaccine. I know the state is developing a vaccine distribution plan, but the New York Times had a headline I think yesterday saying that generally states are not equipped to distribute this vaccine. I also heard a physician raising concerns about the west coast states saying that they want to do their own vetting of the vaccine, and that that will delay distribution even further. So I want to ask you to address Washington’s level of preparedness to get this out and distributed when it’s available, and this extra layer of review that’s been contemplated, and how that might actually serve as a delay factor.
Governor Inslee: (01:25:39)
It’s not going to serve as a delay factor, I can assure you. They will make a decision within a day or two of any federal clearance of the vaccine. And the reason they will be able to do that is because they will be able to look essentially in realtime, as the clinical trial data comes in. They don’t have to just open up the book on day one. They’re going to be looking at this all as the system moves forward, so they will be able to make a decision within hours or a couple of days. I’m confident of that.
Governor Inslee: (01:26:13)
As far as the vaccine distribution system, there is a whole lot of work to do, and frankly, we have been not totally stymied, but I am concerned that the federal government is now being hampered in its ability to really identify the distribution system, because there isn’t a working relationship with the new administration, and that is hurting us right now. It is delaying the ability to get this vaccine distribution system up and running. I think that our state is in as good as any other state in this regard, but we have to have some federal decisions. Now, we also have to know vaccine we’re going to be distributing. This is one of the difficult situations. So I’m looking forward to better federal guidance.
Governor Inslee: (01:27:02)
By the way, Kathy, would you like to add anything to this or the previous question about, “Why restaurants?” Would you like to add anything?
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (01:27:13)
Sure. So first of all, in terms of the vaccine distribution, our planning is going along really well. We are in the process of enrolling providers who want to participate in the program and administer vaccines to their patients or their staff. So that is all underway. And then in terms of the actual distribution, the federal government is contracting with major medication distribution companies to actually directly ship the vaccine to the clinics and the hospitals that are going to use it. We need to enroll providers, and then we select in the system, if there’s a limited number of vaccine doses available, we at the state will decide where to ship them first. So logistically, a lot of that distribution process is being taken on by the federal government, which is great. So we don’t have to worry about receiving a bunch of vaccine here in the state storage and then allocating it out and then sending it to the clinic. That will all be done through a national distributor.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (01:28:37)
I think the only thing I’ll add about the restaurant discussion is that I just want to say that public health doesn’t really have the ability to really understand how many people are infected in a lot of these restaurant outbreaks. So as the governor mentioned, restaurants are the most common site of outbreaks here in our state. If you look a little deeper into the data, the number of people identified in those outbreaks are very small, and involve a lot of staff. And the reason is, is because that’s who public health is focusing on. We’re focusing on transmission to staff.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (01:29:19)
We don’t have a really good idea to understand how many people who were at the restaurant when the employee was sick could have been infected. So we would have to go back and figure out somehow through receipts who was actually at the restaurant when workers there were sick, and then we’d have to follow up with all those people that were at the restaurant, and that’s not happening. So we don’t really have a way to sort of understand that piece of situation.
Dr. Kathy Lofy: (01:29:52)
And then additionally, if there’s a patron who is ill at a restaurant, we would have a very difficult time. And there was another patron from a different party who was sitting at the table next to the ill patron, we would have a very difficult time in our system being able to connect those two cases to the same setting. We have hundreds of people interviewing cases. Our data systems are not set up to be able to say, “This person was at Restaurant X today, and another patient get entered as this patient was in Restaurant X that day,” and to have the system make that connection. We do not have the ability to do that. So I think people need to understand that there are lots of limitations to the data, and we’re sharing as much as we can. We want to be fully transparent about every piece of data we have, but there are just really some underlying, major underlying sort of limitations in the data that we do share around outbreaks.
Governor Inslee: (01:31:00)
Yeah. I want to add something to that. What I hear Kathy saying is that in this case, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And so you can’t reach any conclusion. It would just be scientifically totally wrong to say, “We’re not having transmissions in restaurants.” Now, we don’t know exactly what percentage that is, but it’s kind of like, how relevant that is, I’m not sure how relevant it is. When I throw a pop can out the window, I’m one 10th of one millionth of a percent of the pop cans that are littered, but I still shouldn’t do it.
Governor Inslee: (01:31:39)
And what we’re saying is, it is too dangerous right now for Washingtonians in any environment to be sitting across the table from one another who is not in your household, who’s not been tested, who has not been quarantined. In any circumstance, it is too dangerous to be doing that right now, even if it’s only one house or one restaurant. That’s essentially what we’re saying. And if Washingtonians will embrace that position, we’re going to get on top of this pandemic. And if we don’t, we’re going to have hospitals look like El Paso in a few weeks, and that’s just not acceptable.
Speaker 3: (01:32:14)
Speaker 2: (01:32:14)
All right. Final question. We’ll go to Hannah Scott from KIRO radio. Go ahead, Hannah.
Jenny Durkan: (01:32:21)
Hi, Governor. During the original lockdown, the people who work in restaurants and bars, a great many of them that I spoke to were only able to survive that because of unemployment, the extra unemployment that came from the federal government, which is no longer here. What, if anything, can the state do to help mitigate that? Might it include an extension of the eviction moratorium?
Governor Inslee: (01:32:41)
Well, an extension of the eviction moratorium, as you know, and it may be possible, as I’ve indicated, we’re giving thought, could there possibly be a state substitution for the federal dollars? That is a very, very large number to do that, and we would have to be very creative on how to finance that, because as you know, we already have a four and a half billion dollar hole in our budget already. So we would have to find a creative way to find the dollars to do that, that are not anywhere close to the kitty right now.
Governor Inslee: (01:33:16)
Nonetheless, we’re thinking about things like that, but obviously the most effective thing is to have Congress extend those benefits. They can do so. There is a well-worn path to do so that will keep this economy afloat. And I do want to suggest to the Congress too, this is not just a matter of empathy or compassion for these families, although it is. It’s a matter of whether our economy is going to continue and not have a significant collapse. It has been propped up. The liquidity in the economy comes from the federal government, and they would be really making a mistake to assume that we’re not in for very difficult times if that just collapses, which it will without further federal action. So I can’t overstate how important it is for the federal government to act, and we can all do our part talking to our legislators about that.
Speaker 2: (01:34:07)
Hannah, did you want to ask a follow-up?
Jenny Durkan: (01:34:10)
I know that we have a four-week end date on these current restrictions you’re announcing today, but if you don’t get the compliance that you’re looking for, specifically with indoor gatherings in the homes, and we do see 4,000 cases two weeks from now, would you anticipate taking more action two weeks from now?
Governor Inslee: (01:34:26)
I’ve always tried to avoid answering questions like that, sort of hypothetically. But obviously we can’t see the total collapse of the healthcare system. We can’t accept thousands and thousands of deceased Washingtonians. We know that further restrictions could be possible. Obviously I’m not saying it’s probable, likely, but we know that we can’t accept the pandemic destroying our families. That we know. That’s what I can say. But as I’ve said here, that should not be necessary. This is in our control. We have a path to health, both economically and physically, if we just take it. I’m blowing the horn here and asking Washingtonians to join this effort, and the more people who join this effort and start making decisions in their individual capacity, the less likely those things will be necessary.
Governor Inslee: (01:35:21)
And I’m seeing even just the last few days of more people sort of thinking about these things. Since Trudy and I addressed the state a few days ago, I’ve had any number of people say, “Jeez, I really haven’t thought about that.” Right? “What could be bad about Thanksgiving?” I get that, but I’ve had several friends just come up and say, “Look, I’m rethinking this. We’re not going to have a big dinner. We’re going to do this virtually,” or something. “And have sandwiches later virtually.” So I do think there is a good chance for our state to rouse itself and confront this challenge in ways that we have in the past. Because we have done it in the past, we know we can do it and we know it will work. So I remain optimistic today, even in the matter of where we are. We still have a lot to be thankful for.
Speaker 3: (01:36:11)
Any wrap up, Governor?
Governor Inslee: (01:36:13)
No, I just want to thank everyone. This has been a long discussion and a very important subject. I know I have more discussions. I wish everybody well. Good luck. Please be healthy.