Jul 7, 2020
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Press Conference Transcript July 7
Washington governor Jay Inslee held a COVID-19 press conference on July 7. Inslee talked about the mandatory face mask law going into effect in Washington. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Governor Inslee: (00:59)
Okay. Second here. Ready?
Speaker 1: (01:13)
Governor Inslee: (01:14)
Good afternoon. Today I’m joined by our state health officer, Kathy Lofy. Dr. Kathy Lofy, she’ll have some brief remarks after I’m done with mine and can answer questions. Before I talk about our ongoing COVID work, I’d like to make some comments about our unemployment compensation situation in the state of Washington. As you know, people are terribly frustrated by this.
Governor Inslee: (01:37)
We still have thousands of people who have not been able to have their claims processed fully in a timely basis, and their frustration is real and sincere and deep and is something I share. These folks have been waiting to either be paid or have their claims resolved sometimes for months. And they’re in very serious financial condition, many of them. And that’s why the team at our employment security department has been really working as hard as humanly possible to develop the systems that can process these claims as quickly as possible.
Governor Inslee: (02:13)
I want to report there has been progress recently on this front. Folks who are in the queue waiting for processing of their claims number 81,000. 81,000 people were waiting as of June 15th. That has been reduced to 37,000 as of Monday. Significant progress. The department has been able to resolve identification issues for more than 200,000 claims as part of our efforts to combat fraud. They did this with the help of the National Guard, which we’re very appreciative of.
Governor Inslee: (02:53)
I do want to note that the vast majority of people who have filed claims have had their claims processed. Since March 8th, about 866,000 individuals ever received more than $6.7 billion in unemployment benefits, but obviously much work needs to be done. I am in contact with the leadership in employment security very regularly. I know it consumes them. I know every day they’ve got some new idea about how to expedite processing, and that work continues.
Governor Inslee: (03:25)
Susie Levine, I think, will have more information about the specific new technologies they’ve brought online, and also the new people of hiring hundreds of people to be able to respond to this unbelievable, a tsunami of claims. As you know, the claims numbers have gone up by a factor of 10 from the regular processing capability of this department. So we’re going to put pedal to the metal on this. Washingtonians deserve that.
Governor Inslee: (03:54)
That said, I’d like to turn to COVID. It’s hard to believe how far we have come, and we’re only halfway through 2020. This fight has been tough. It’s been unpredictable, and we knew it has been very tiring for all of us, for our families, for our workers, and our businesses as well. Last week, I announced a pause on reopening phases because of the increasing COVID-19 activity.
Governor Inslee: (04:23)
If these trends were to continue, we would have to be prepared to go back to where we were in March, but there is good news. We have made great progress in this fight in there is more to do. And the reason is, is because we have learned things about how to fight this virus, and we can easily put that education to work if we choose to do so. And it is very clear about where I stand on this. I want to reopen our economy. I want to reopen our businesses. I want people to be able to go back to work.
Governor Inslee: (05:02)
This is a firm desire I know shared by Washingtonians across the state. So here’s the deal, and it’s good news. We know what works in this fight. It is not a great mystery. We can wear face coverings because we know that mounting medical evidence has shown it’s compelling to understand that we can lower COVID-19 infection rates by a very simple thing and that is to wear face coverings.
Governor Inslee: (05:33)
This is a key to keep businesses open. It’s pretty simple. Mask up to open up. And that’s what we want to do. The masking order I discussed last week becomes official today regarding businesses. As you know, previously, under our order, it was a law that individuals have a responsibility to wear masks as appropriate indoors and outdoors when social distancing could not be obtained or maintained. But this now has an obligation of businesses as well.
Governor Inslee: (06:08)
And we need masking adherence across the state. We need businesses to adhere and we believe that they will. We believe that, not just because it’s the law, because we know that people want to do their part. And we actually have confidence in this ability and I’ll tell you why. We have seen massive compliance with this effort to date. People stepped up to the plate, made tough decisions, tough decisions in the last few months, but they’ve made those decisions.
Governor Inslee: (06:38)
As a result, we bent this curve down. Now, as we’re trying to reopen our economy, we have to show similar commitment, similar adherence to these measures so that we can get this job done. And I believe we can do that. I believe we are doing that today. So far, local leaders East and West of the Cascades are telling us that they’re getting tremendous increases already in adherence to this facial covering requirement. People are realizing this is not a partisan issue. It’s simply a life saving step.
Governor Inslee: (07:13)
In Yakima a month ago only maybe 35% of people wearing masks. A couple weeks ago it was 60, and a friend of mine in Selah told me in her grocery store it was up to 90%. Republican Commissioner Delvin, Jerome Delvin, in Tri- Cities told me a couple days ago, it’s up to 90% in Tri-Cities. People are stepping up to the plate and we really appreciate that. It’s a very rapid change. It’s a relatively simple change, but people are doing it by the thousands, and we’re very happy about that.
Governor Inslee: (07:49)
Now that’s not the only thing we can do. We can increase our odds of success by continuing the physical distancing from ourselves in public situations. We can continue to limit our contacts and stay relatively close to home. We can wash our hands, and here is an important issue. If you are contacted by one of the contact tracers, please give them a hand, and if they ask you to isolate, we need to isolate because we can infect other people, even though we have no symptoms whatsoever, and we really need to do that for 14 days since the time we came in contact with someone who was a positive.
Governor Inslee: (08:35)
So that kind of cooperation can move mountains and they’re healthy habits, they’re lifesaving, and they are economy opening, and we can all do them. So keeping yourself healthy is the most important thing you can do for yourselves and families right now, but also this for reopening the economy. This is what we can do to keep our businesses open and continue to open more.
Governor Inslee: (09:04)
Now, there is something that we’ve got to gird ourselves up to, and that is that this is a long fight, and we’re sort of in the bottom of the third inning. We are not in the ninth inning of a nine-inning game here. We simply are not done. And in moments like that, the more we have unity of purpose, the more we’re committed, the more successful jointly we will be. Simply put, we know we don’t have a vaccine, but we do have each other, and I’m glad Washingtonians are being there for all other Washingtonians.
Governor Inslee: (09:43)
We know we’re adaptable and resilient as a species, and this is a moment where frankly, last year at this time, I was not thinking about wearing a mask. I doubt any of the folks listening tonight were either, but we’re adapting very quickly because that’s what a smart state does. And we know that even though this has been really difficult, and it has, for all of us, we just can’t be numb to this continued challenge.
Governor Inslee: (10:12)
I just want to share with you a graph showing the number of cases that we are experiencing. You’ll see that we knocked the virus down dramatically in April. We got to a low and in May, early June, but since then the virus has been coming after us, and the number of cases has gone up fairly dramatically. We simply have to reduce the level of that curve yet again. We have done this before and we can do this again, but this time we’re going to do it using masks and social distancing and contact tracing. Different strategies, different tools, but we want to use these new tools to be able to open up our economy.
Governor Inslee: (10:59)
So I don’t think we need to be afraid. We just need to be committed. And now we have some challenges. We know one of the challenges is a president who continues to try to deceive Americans about this subject. Six days ago, he said this virus is just going away. He said some version of that maybe 19 times. This virus is only going to go away when we make it go away. And the tools we have available to us now are available to all of us, and we all have got to pull it together to make sure that we use them.
Governor Inslee: (11:36)
Now, I’m pleased that more and more leaders are helping in this regard. I’m pleased that Republican leaders in our state are emphasizing the need to mask up. Congressman Dan Newhouse in Central Washington, Mayor Byers of Yakima, Commissioner Delvin of Tri-Cities, national Republican leaders, the vice president of the United States, who’s wearing a mask. Look, this is something we need to be united on. We can win this battle when we’re united, and I believe that.
Governor Inslee: (12:10)
So there is some misinformation about the fact that these cases are going up. We know that more tests means we’re casting a wider net to track this virus, so we know more testing is a good thing. But here’s one of the things that concerns us, and that is the rate of positivity. The rate of positivity of the percentage of tests that are positive is increasing in most regions of our state. In mid-June, it was about 3.8% of our tests. But for the last week of June, it’s risen to about 5% and even higher in the last week. The World Health Organization says that if it’s higher than that, a country shouldn’t lift restrictions. So we got to keep that in mind.
Governor Inslee: (12:58)
So we can accomplish lower positivity rates through more testing, not less. And so I’m glad we’re doing more testing because we know this: We do not want to go backwards. Washington’s a forward-looking state. So we can’t take what we’ve done for granted. We know we have very simple measures to fight this virus, and I’m very pleased people across the state of Washington are joining this fight. So it’s time to be proactive and we can all do our part. With that, I want to turn to Dr. Lofy to make some comments about the current status of the pandemic. Dr. Lofy?
Dr. Lofy: (13:39)
Great. Thank you, Governor Inslee and good afternoon, everyone. So I’m going to talk to you briefly this afternoon about some concerning trends that I’m seeing in the data and the importance for people with COVID-19 and their contacts to stay at home away from other people. So, as the governor mentioned, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of cases being detected here in Washington.
Dr. Lofy: (14:02)
While part of this increase is due to an increase in the number of tests performed, which is a good thing, there are signals in our data that show the true burden of COVID-19 disease is increasing. So our modeling team takes changes in overall testing into account when they calculate the reproductive rate of this virus in our state, and they have determined that disease activity has been increasing in both Eastern and Western Washington. In addition, as the governor mentioned, we’re seeing a rise in the percentage of tests performed in Washington that are positive. And we’re also seeing a rise in the number of people who are admitted to hospitals every week. These worrisome signals are no longer confined to a few hot spots in Eastern Washington, but are now being seen, unfortunately, throughout the state. If COVID-19 activity continues to increase throughout Washington during the summer months, our hospitals could be full of COVID-19 patients moving into the …
Dr. Lofy: (15:03)
Our hospitals could be full of COVID-19 patients moving into the fall, which would position us very poorly for the start at the school year, and the anticipated fall wave. So what we’re seeing increase in disease activity, because people are coming into contact more frequently than we all did back in March. It’s pretty simple. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing an increase in spread in just a few settings that are easy to target. We are seeing instead, of the virus spread in many different types of settings, which is making it more difficult to control. The virus continues to spread among household contacts. And we know that people who live with people who are infected with COVID-19 are at greatest risk for infection. We’re also continuing to see transmission of COVID-19 in longterm care facilities and food processing plants. And we’re now seeing a disease transmission in retail businesses, restaurants, and childcare environments, just to name a few.
Dr. Lofy: (16:02)
If we want to be successful as a state in managing this pandemic, we all need to do our part. The governor already talked about the importance of wearing a mask while in public. This measure is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and countless other public health experts from around the country. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, it’s also critical that people with COVID-19 and their contacts, stay at home and away from others. So if you develop symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19, it’s really important that you stay at home away from other people. It is also important that you do get tested. But it’s so critical that you stay home because people are most contagious to others at the start of their illness. So if you start to feel just mildly ill, and go about your business, and then decide to get tested a few days later, there’s probably already several people who you have infected. So it’s really, really important as soon as you start to feel sick, to stay at home, away from other people, and make sure that you get tested.
Dr. Lofy: (17:15)
If someone in your household gets COVID-19, you need to stay at home for 14 days after your last exposure to this person, regardless of whether you get a test or not. So if you go, and if you’re a contact of somebody who has COVID-19 and you go get tested and you’re negative, you still need to stay home for a total of 14 days, because that’s how long it can take for the virus to actually show up, show symptoms in your body.
Dr. Lofy: (17:47)
So well, I do not believe that we will be successful in controlling spread if only half of our population followed these measures. We really need everybody to follow these measures every day if we want to keep our economy open, and send our kids to school, and to keep transmission at bay. Thanks. And I’ll turn it back over to you, governor.
Governor Inslee: (18:13)
Thanks. Thanks Doctor. We are appreciative of people who are helping out that Dr. Lofi referred to including many, many businesses, many of which who have asked us to move in this direction. They want to have this to protect their employees, and to protect the other customers in their stores and businesses. And that’s one of the reasons we’re confident that huge numbers of businesses will be of assistance in this regard. Now there are enforcement measures available if necessary, but as with our previous orders, we think we’re going to get great compliance.
Governor Inslee: (18:50)
Before I take your questions, I wanted to make a comment about some other news. We’ve heard that the Trump administration wants to kick out of our colleges, international students if their classes aren’t in-person. This is a typically xenophobic and reckless act by the administration. It creates perverse incentives to force universities to do in-person classes, even though they consider that might be unwise, and unhealthy, and not in the public interest.
Governor Inslee: (19:20)
So again, this is a situation where the president is trying to use young students as pawns. So we are actively planning for safe and healthy ways to hold in-person classes in colleges. But it’s certainly not a guarantee. The University of Washington has been looking at a hybrid model of in-person and online classes. UWA alone has 7500 students, many of them who will help start businesses, and be physicians, and the like in our community. So we stand opposed to the Trump administration’s attempt to do damages to the universities and colleges of our state.
Governor Inslee: (20:02)
Regardless of the course of this virus, these students have earned the right to be here. And they contribute greatly. And I was just talking to the ambassador from India, talking about quite a number of physicians he knows in Washington state who may have been trained here that were born in India. This is yet another attempt by Donald Trump to distract us from this effort against the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, that same attitude has been this true in regard to the deferred action for childhood arrivals. As you know, the Trump administration is trying to kick out of our state, some of our most ambitious, most energetic, most promising students, the dreamers.
Governor Inslee: (20:48)
And that’s why I’m happy that I’ve been joined by 85 Democratic members of the Legislature who sent a letter to the administration saying it’s time for him to cease his attacks on young students and young people who are so promising in our state, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling. We would love it if that would succeed. With that, I would be happy to stand for questions.
Rachel, with AP.
Governor, the mask mandate expansion taking effect today, is the state offering any assistance for businesses that may face an increase in confrontational encounters with customers who refuse to comply?
Governor Inslee: (21:28)
We really hope that does not case. And so far, it has not been the case largely. In Yakima, where it has been in place to some degree, businesses have been responsible. They’ve trained their employees. The employees have a really simple thing to do, is if people are not asking a mask or were not wearing a mask, they simply don’t ring up the sale. And that has been fairly easily accomplished to simply not ring up the sale. That is controlled by the clerk, and that has been successful. And we believe it will be successful. We’re not asking for people to get in any physical confrontations. Just don’t ring up the sale.
Governor Inslee: (22:08)
There’s one other issue. Some people are exempt from this requirement. People who have physical or mental impairments that prohibit them from wearing a mask, they are exempt from these requirements. And all the clerk has to do is, if they say they are exempt, they will accept that self declaration. So this isn’t something that should lead to anything but greater health, and a greater way to knock down this virus. And so far, that seems to be the case.
Ask a follow up.
Yeah. I just wanted to see if you also had a response to the freedom foundation lawsuit that’s been filed questioning whether you or the Department of Health have the authority to issue this statewide mandate.
Governor Inslee: (22:49)
Anyone can file a lawsuit, wants to waste their money. And we believe we are in very firm constitutional and statutory grounds. There have been multiple cases that have already been resolved, and have upheld the constitutionality and the common sense, frankly, of these orders. Those sometimes don’t get as much play, but there’s been several decisions in our favor in that regard. So we’re in very firm ground. We are not concerned about them. There’s a lot of political gamesmanship going on in election year. You could chalk up these lawsuits to that endeavor.
Next question comes from Austin with Northwest News Network.
Hi governor. From your perspective, what has changed between March when you did order people to stay home, and now where we’ve got more cases showing up than we did in April, and yet you’re allowing the economy to continue to reopen and saying, we can do this with masks and social distancing alone. What’s changed?
Governor Inslee: (23:51)
Changed is, we are trying to accomplish two things. One, to be able to reopen our economy to some reasonable degree at a measured pace that’s consistent with the science, and the ability to replace that with different tools in our toolbox. That is masking, that is contact tracing, that is additional social distancing in a social basis. And we believe there’s a reasonable opportunity for us to succeed in this endeavor if people simply adhere to our rules. So these are things that are masks are widely available. They are inexpensive, they’re inobtrusive, they do not create any particular health hazard, and it just makes sense to wear them. So what has changed is, we now have an ability hopefully to have the best of both worlds, to be able to reopen up our businesses at the right pace, and wear a mask, and succeed of keeping this virus from overwhelming our hospitals.
Governor Inslee: (24:55)
And as I’ve said, we are having to some degree, some early success in this endeavor. Let me just share you with this. We have had actually a decrease in the last week or so in our cases in Yakima. This possibly is a reflection in our masking effort, showing early success of more people wearing masks resulting in less positive cases. Now that’s very preliminary, but it’s a possibility that we’re already seeing some success in this regard. We are succeeding, as I’ve indicated, a very, very rapid uptake in wearing masks. I’ve been very pleased at how fast we’ve seen our personal habits change. I noted it and Sila went from 35, to 60, to maybe 90 in a month. So this is working in a large degree in many places, including not just in Western Washington.
Governor Inslee: (25:56)
So what’s changed is a recognition of a new tool that’s available, and a recognition that if we don’t abide by that, then we might have to go back as I’ve indicated, and reclose some of these businesses. And we do not want to do that. We want to continue to open our businesses. We want people to be able to go back to work. And that’s why we’re so committed to this effort that we can all be part of.
Would you like to ask a follow up?
Just briefly for Dr. Lofi. Can you explain, Dr. Lofi, why the state seems sort of stuck at about 20 tests per new case, as opposed to the goal of 50 tests, I believe, for each new case during the prior week?
Dr. Lofy: (26:39)
Yeah, sure. So let me first comment that we have increased our testing, the number of tests that we are performing every day tremendously over the past three weeks. And I think part of that might be due to the fact that we have increasing COVID activity, and probably have more people who are sick. And so that’s one thing that I think has been going on over the last few weeks. We have a number of activities underway to further increase our testing over the upcoming weeks. This week, we’re setting up two new drive-thru test sites in Yakima, followed by three or four more test sites in the Benton Franklin area, and are exploring different partnerships that we can have with some larger pharmacy chains. So then really greatly expand the ability for people to get tested.
Dr. Lofy: (27:44)
We’re also trying to continue to get the message out, which you all can help with, that anybody who has any symptoms should be tested. And we sent some additional information out to our providers last week, emphasizing that they should be testing anyone who has even very mild symptoms, and close contacts of individuals with COVID-19, even if they’re symptomatic. So we’re continuing to broaden who gets tested, and continue to set up different test sites throughout the state. And I think that our testing numbers are going to continue to climb in the next few weeks.
Next question comes from Joe with the Seattle times, who’s having technical difficulties. So I’ll read it out. Given rise in cases in other states that have reopened as well as the rising cases in Washington, do you think enough state residents will follow protocols to make a difference without stricter stay-at-home restrictions, going back in effect?
Governor Inslee: (28:51)
I believe as I’ve indicated, already seen Washingtonians up in their game big time. And that’s very, very pleasing. So we’re going to continue with that era or of confidence and a can do attitude because we’ve demonstrated it. We demonstrated it when we stayed home early in this pandemic. Now we’re demonstrating it by increasing masking. So I believe we can do this. It takes a little bit inspiration on occasion and thus our order.
Governor Inslee: (29:19)
But we’ve demonstrated what we can do as Washingtonians. And there’s no reason to believe we cannot do this. This is within all of our grasp. And one of the things Trudy was saying that I find very accurate that when you’re in a big endeavor, everybody can do their part. And here is something that everybody can do their part. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, or a neurosurgeon, or a millionaire. Everybody can do this. And it’s unifying. It’s something we can all pitch in together. It’s something that frankly we can feel good about, that we’re caring about each other. And right now there’s hardly anything more caring than wearing a mask. So, yes, I believe that we can do this.
Governor Inslee: (30:03)
… and wearing a mask. So, yes, I believe that we can do this. I believe we are doing this to some degree, even today.
And a followup, also from Joe, what would be the specific metrics or groups of metrics you would use to roll counties back to more restrictive phases in the existing plan, or to implement or restore stricter statewide restrictions?
Governor Inslee: (30:22)
We’ve had this discussion many, many times during this pandemic. There is no single metric, as you know, and the metrics are the same that we have looked at. The number of cases, the positivity rate, the hospitalization rate with COVID like symptoms, the hospitalization rate with proven COVID, the death rate, the hospital capacity rate, the ICU capacity rate, the number of ventilators, the transportation system to be available to transport patients, and now importantly, the level of compliance that we’re seeing in our masking order.
Governor Inslee: (30:58)
If we have more masking to do and we haven’t done it yet, we can continue in that route. But if we’d stalled, and people simply were not wearing masks to the adequate degree, and we continue to see a climb in the positivity rate and the hospitalization rate, there is some combination of those where we would have to go backwards. And I have to tell you that we are concerned that that could be in our near future, if we do not increase our performance here. And that’s just the reality. So we think there’s a good reason to believe we contain this and keep it down, but it’s going to require us to continue to increase the rate of masks that we’re now wearing.
Governor Inslee: (31:44)
And by the way, we’ve talked so much about masks. I do want to say this, and this is a really difficult kind of thing to talk about. We’re seeing a great surge in young people becoming infected, and we’re very concerned about that for a couple reasons. One, young people can die. We saw a well noted a performer at age 41 lose his life the other day. But those young people have parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts, and they pass that on to everybody in their family, over time. So having young people, we really need them to step up to the plate and not be hanging around with eight or 10 or 12 people shoulder to shoulder, having a beer on a sunny day. It’s just too dangerous. And we really need them to help us out here, and believe they can. So if you know anybody, a young person, that means anybody under the age of 68, I hope you’ll talk to them.
Next question comes from Essex with KIRO 7.
Yes, Governor, I have a question for you, and then a followup question for Dr. Lofy. Governor, on another subject, you tweeted out a statement about your cousin’s internet postings. Why did you feel the need to speak out about those postings?
Governor Inslee: (33:11)
Well, look, we are in a [inaudible 00:33:12] where we have both the challenge of reducing racial inequity, a challenge of reducing police violence. This is a challenging moment, and it certainly was deeply disappointing to me that a relative of mine or a non-relative of mine would put words on the internet that could fan the flames. That language is just simply unacceptable. And we all have to pitch in to do our part, to advance the cause of justice. Certainly that language did not do that.
And, Essex, your followup?
Yes, a question for Dr. Lofy. Looking at the church you showed with those rising numbers, how long do we have until you’ll have to go to the governor and say, this is not working, you need to roll back?
Dr. Lofy: (34:06)
Well, I’m really thinking, I’m really hoping that we’re going to be able to turn this around and flatten those graphs that we showed earlier. As we mentioned, if people start wearing masks and really limit their social interactions and practice social distancing when they are interacting with people outside of their households, I really do believe that we can flatten those graphs that I showed you. It’s been really hard to predict the trajectory of this particular outbreak, because it is so highly dependent on behaviors. And even our modeling groups don’t like predicting out more than about two weeks or so, because it depends on the behavior in the population. So it’s really all of us that get to decide what these graphs look like. And it has to be all of us together, because if it’s just half of us, or part of us, we’re not going to be successful in slowing the transmission.
Next question comes from Jim with The Spokesman-Review.
Governor, I’m wondering what the state is doing to help out with the persistent supply shortage on testing in Spokane and some other Eastern Washington areas. The private labs are backed up. I understand that Quest does priority testing results for hospitals, but some people wait as long as 10 days to get their results. And I don’t see how this can be effective if people have to wait 10 days for their results to come back.
Governor Inslee: (35:54)
Well, to start with, we’re all frustrating, but I would reiterate, we all have an obligation to isolate ourselves, even before we get test results. And this is a really important point of this whole endeavor. We can succeed in this. We can knock this virus down if we do things that we know that work, and one of the things we know that work is that if you are exposed to a person who is positive, and if you have sought a test, do not wait for the test results to make a decision that can save lives. We need to isolate ourselves immediately for at least 14 days or until we get that test result. So the fact of the matter is we need to isolate in any result in any event for 14 days after we’ve had a contact with a person, no matter how long it takes, unless we get a negative result.
Governor Inslee: (36:51)
So I guess what I’m saying is what we need to do needs to start on day one, to some degree. Now we wish people didn’t have to wait at all, even hours. Now, why isn’t this a system that can do this within 24 hours? There are multiple reasons. The biggest reason is that the federal government has never, never really provided the test kits that are necessary in adequate numbers to actually solve this problem. And when they finally got us some kits, they frequently missed or mismatched, or not properly packaged or mislabeled, so that we’ve had to expend all kinds of person power mixing and matching swabs.
Governor Inslee: (37:37)
So Secretary John Wiesman, our secretary of health, wrote a letter to Admiral Giroir about this subject last week. We hope that that will improve. Now, that being said, there has now developed recently also an analytical choke point from the labs, as you indicated, where even where we have had the test kits, the labs have been slower. Why? It’s because governors in southern states listen to Donald Trump, and they reopened their businesses way too fast, and they let thousands of people rush into bars, and as a result, they’ve got massive surges of pandemics in Texas and Florida and other states. And as a result, they put pressure on the analytical labs to get all these testing done. So we wished that was not the case. And we wish them well in these southern states.
Jim would you like to ask a followup?
Well, I guess I’m just having trouble with the idea that you get tested right after you’ve had contact. You may test negative at that point, but 10 days later, when you get the results back, are those results even any good?
Governor Inslee: (38:47)
Well, I’m not sure I understood your question. If you get them back, and you’re negative, there’s high probability you were negative the day the test was done. If it’s positive, there’s a high probability you were positive the day the test was done. What I was saying is you need to isolate until you get a negative test, or 14 days, whichever comes first. My point is, is that we need to isolate as soon as we find out we have been exposed, even if we have to wait some period of time for the test results.
Dr. Lofy: (39:24)
Yeah, this is Kathy. I can also add that we are working with two laboratories on the east side of the state, which would be high throughput laboratories to help them stand up their testing, so that we would have even more capacity than we have currently in the state.
Okay. Next question comes from Chris with KING 5.
Yes. Hi, Governor. I just want to followup on the question that was asked previously.The King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight says they received an unprecedented number of public inquiries about your cousin’s alleged postings on Facebook. There is already a King County council member that is calling for his termination. Have you spoken to your cousin, Mike Brown? And would you encourage him to take any sort of action based on this investigation?
Governor Inslee: (40:21)
I have not spoken to him, and I believe we all know there has to be a very thorough investigation. It is being conducted, to my knowledge, by the King County Sheriff’s Department, and I’m not going to meddle in that investigation. The King County Sheriff’s Department will make a decision based on the right thing to do here.
Chris, would you like to ask a followup?
I can ask a followup question that is unrelated to that, since you did cover unemployment insurance off the top, Governor Inslee. There are a fair amount of people who believe there should be changes at the top of that department. Do you still have confidence in the leadership in the office of employment security?
Governor Inslee: (41:08)
Well, there’s been many, many changes to improve and try to catch up with this 10 times avalanche of claims, and I’m convinced that they’re doing everything that is possible to increase the capacity of this system, and that’s what we’re designing this to do. We want to reduce the waiting time for people as far as humanly possible. These people have been waiting for weeks and months. It is a horrific burden on them, financially. We understand that. I’m convinced that the department is doing everything humanly possible to deal with this. Unfortunately, there are millions of people across the United States and in dozens and dozens of states who are experiencing basically the same thing. And the reason this happened is we got hit with a virus, and the number of claims went up by a factor of 10. And there is no system in the solar system that could go overnight to increase that capacity. So I am convinced that they are doing everything humanly possible, and I demand that they do that, because Washingtonians deserve that.
Next question comes from Alexis with the News Tribune.
For the governor or for Dr. Lofy, can you give a sense of how much cases at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are effecting the numbers in Pierce County? Their case numbers haven’t been publicly reported recently, but they’re the county’s largest public employer.
Governor Inslee: (42:36)
Kathy [crosstalk 00:42:39]
Dr. Lofy: (42:42)
This is Kathy. Oh. This is Kathy. I have not personally seen that data, so cannot tell you what proportion of the Pierce County cases that that would account for at this point.
Alexis, would you like to ask a followup?
Yes. The state has released information on cases by occupation. Do you expect more specific information on outbreaks to be released, such as by employers and particularly larger ones?
Dr. Lofy: (43:18)
Yeah. So this is Kathy. So yes, we did release information about the occupation of the cases that we have detected here in this state, and that should be available online. We are closely tracking outbreaks as well at this time, and we do have an outbreak report that we are getting really close to being able to share publicly which groups different settings into different types of businesses, and by industry. So yes, I’m hoping that that should be available sometime soon.
Next question comes from Keith with KOMO.
You have a two week pause on advancing to phase four. Is there a possibility that we are now in jeopardy of not being able to go to phase four throughout the summer, that the Washington State Fair might not be able to be held, that concerts will have to be canceled? Is that a jeopardy and a danger right now?
Governor Inslee: (44:25)
Well, to some degree, speculation probably doesn’t help us a lot, but, but yes. I mean, we have to get on top of this pandemic. It’s just a reality. Now, I hope in our discussion today, people will realize what I’m saying is this is a good news press conference, and maybe that will surprise you, but that’s how I look at it, because I believe we have the tools at our disposal, in our hands, just over the tip of our nose, that can allow us to have these things this summer and this fall and next winter. We can do this. That’s the fundamental message that I have today.
Governor Inslee: (45:03)
We can do this. That’s the fundamental message that I have today. And that we can do this simply by adhering to what we’re calling all Washingtonians to do. And that’s the focus that we need to do. I prefer to focus on success rather than failure. And what we need to do to focus on success is to have confidence in our ability to do this, to take pride in a recognition that we can all participate in this success and just a little bit of commitment. So I prefer to think of rosier days ahead. I go for a walk once in a while in the evening, there’s a house that has a sign on the front porch a few blocks from the Capital that says better days ahead. I believe that. And I believe that because more people are wearing masks today than they were a couple of weeks ago and more people are going to wear them next week than they are today. And I believe that can bail us out of this real dark place we’re in right now. So I consider this a good news day.
Speaker 2: (46:04)
Keith, do you have a follow up?
Yes. When all this started back in March, there was a hotline for people to call to complain about businesses that didn’t shut down. Is that hotline still open or is there a new one for people to call if they go to a business and that business operator is not enforcing your mandate and he’s still selling to people without masks?
Governor Inslee: (46:23)
We do have a plan in that regard.
Speaker 3: (46:28)
[inaudible 00: 01:29].
Governor Inslee: (46:32)
Yeah. Yeah. Coronavirus.wa.gov, coronavirus.wa.gov. That is available. We are very hopeful that businesses will continue their leadership. We’ve been very lucky. We’ve had a lot of really enlightened businesses that helped us early in this to help people do telecommuting and who made tough decisions regarding closing their businesses until we could reopen. And so we think we’re going to get a lot of cooperation on this, but I do want to reiterate, this is a legally binding order. Businesses do need to comply. There are sanctions that are very expensive if they do not. So we don’t want to have to go that route. We hope that our can do attitude will continue in the state of Washington.
Speaker 2: (47:15)
Next question comes from Jerry with the Everett Herald.
Okay, Governor. I notice your mask today is the Seattle Mariners. So my question is related to that. King County is in phase two. Phase three was sporting events, no fans. Will you allow professional baseball games in Seattle later this month? And if so, what special steps is the state going to take and enforce to protect the athletes, the staff, those who sit in the seats watching, or maybe employees?
Governor Inslee: (47:50)
So I don’t know this decision. You’ve caught me a little bit flatfooted on that. I’m going to have to get back to you on a specific answer on that question.
Speaker 2: (47:59)
Would you like to ask a follow up?
Yes, please. And this, I don’t know if it would be for the governor or for Kathy Lofy, but early in the pandemic, when there were outbreaks of one or two people getting sick, we would write stories about the store closing, a school closing, a manufacturing plant closing. Now there are outbreaks occurring in businesses, retail stores, manufacturing, and they are not closing. What’s changed? Why are these businesses being allowed, these places being allowed to operate when there’s knowingly positive cases?
Governor Inslee: (48:39)
Well, you’re asking are businesses necessarily shutting down because they’d had one case as an employee? Is that what you’re asking or… ?
No, early on, it would only take one or two cases for a school to close, a business to close. I think even Boeing closed for a time. And they would take 10 to 14 days to clean the place up and re-sanitize. Now it appears that there are outbreaks occurring of two or more employees or staff at a place, but the businesses don’t close for several days. They’re allowed to continue operating. And I’m just wondering if it’s because we’ve learned more about the pandemic or if the rules have changed for what happens when an outbreak occurs in a retail store or a manufacturing plant?
Governor Inslee: (49:29)
Well, I’m not sure I have a general statement. Lots of businesses had some COVID activity and continue to operate that was not out of compliance with the rules. So I’m not sure I buy the whole presumption of your question. But there has been increased knowledge about how to fight this pandemic. Using masks for instance, we have found that they are very effective. So increasing number of businesses have adopted masks as appropriate to reduce the transmission rate in the businesses. That has helped. It’s allowed people to work in circumstances where otherwise they could not. Businesses have learned to use plexiglass shields. You see that in your grocery store very frequently. They’ve learned how to communicate with both their employees and their customers about how to stand to socially distance. They have spread out their workstations.
Governor Inslee: (50:21)
So there has been a lot of learning that has gone on that I think has been considerably successful, but we have to do this beyond the workplace, too. And that’s one of my messages. We’re seeing a lot of transmission outside of the workplace, in the backyard barbecues and the birthday parties inside. And just the common people hobnobbing with each other. And that’s the part where we really need some assistance.
Speaker 2: (50:49)
Time for a few more questions. Questions? Next question comes from Ashley with the Chinook Observer.
Hi, Governor. I was curious. Thousands of people came to the coast for the July 4th holiday. And I talked to families from Yakima, Pierce and Clark Counties, as well as some people from Portland in Oregon. Most people, honestly, on the beach, weren’t wearing masks. We saw a lot more discarded on ground. Closing the coastal beaches would have required the state to intervene. Can you just talk me through a little bit about why you chose not to close the beaches ahead of the holiday?
Governor Inslee: (51:27)
Well, to be honest with you, I don’t think it was seriously considered. I was not involved in any discussions about that. Look, I think that this is a place where we’ve got to rely on people’s common sense to some degree. Being outdoors is different than indoors, which is great. You reduce your risk of transmission if you are outdoors. And we just need people to use their common sense to recognize there is a difference between walking on fourth and in Sherry, in Seattle at noon when the sidewalks are real busy, you need to wear a mask. If you are alone, walking on the Ocean Shores beach at 5:00 a.m. in the morning and there’s nobody within 300 yards, you don’t have to wear a mask. And we just have to have a little bit of common sense.
Governor Inslee: (52:18)
And my sense is there were many circumstances where people could safely be on a beach. I have simply have not seen pictures of the crowding we’ve seen on New Jersey shores or even California if that was the case, I’d love to talk to somebody about it. But I believe we can enjoy the outdoors considerably by exercising that common sense. And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people when you’re walking on a little trail, there’s a little trail that I walk through the woods on where I live and people step off the trail. I step off the trail, we wear a mask as we pass each other. That works.
Speaker 2: (53:01)
Would you like to ask a follow up?
Yeah. My follow up question was kind of off of whoever spoke from the Everett Herald. How is the state ensuring that businesses don’t try to minimize possible outbreaks by not doing mass testing after an employee tests positive for COVID-19? We had a seafood process worker test positive and close contacts were reached out to by public health nurses, but the actual business didn’t do mass testing of its employees to make sure that more people weren’t infected. Is there a way that the state’s monitoring that or looking at that?
Governor Inslee: (53:48)
Yes, local health departments have the legal ability to require that testing in an employer who has those positive tests. So they could be ordered by the local health department officials to do that. And that’s under state and local law. So that technique is available and we are in contact with local officials across the state, talking to them about when it is appropriate to do that kind of work. Kathy, would you like to address that or anything?
Dr. Lofy: (54:20)
Yeah, I think I’ll just add that every outbreak response is a little bit different. We start a outbreak response by trying to figure out who’s sick in the facility, figuring out who the person had close contact with. Every physical layout of every business is a little bit different. And sometimes people may only expose the individuals within the part of the business where they work and they don’t have any contact with other people that work in the business. So all those questions are looked at when we do outbreak investigations. There have been businesses that have been closed to do broad testing throughout the whole business. And so that is still occurring. I think that maybe you just don’t hear about them in the media quite as much as we used to. But there have been some businesses that have closed and every outbreak investigation is just a little bit different. So lots of different factors are considered when you make the decision as to whether a business should be closed or whether everybody needs to be tested in the business.
Speaker 2: (55:33)
Final question comes from [Mayer 00:55:34] with KXLY.
Hi, Governor. What’s your response to people who say this face mask mandate is unconstitutional and an abuse of your emergency powers?
Governor Inslee: (55:45)
Well, we have a really good way of answering that question and that is our court system. And the court system can answer that question. And all of the decisions that I’ve made have been challenged so far where courts have made a decision have essentially refused to enjoin or prohibit the application of our rule. So what I would say is we have the authority to save ourselves in Washington. We recognize that in potentially catastrophic pandemics, the governor can and should act. It is as much a responsibility as it is a privilege. And we have acted in a way that has been successful in knocking down this curve as much or more than any other state. And now we have measures that are common sense that are widely being used in many places in our state by 90% plus of people already. So what I would say is this is something that can save lives.
Governor Inslee: (56:47)
There is nothing in the Constitution that says people should die of a virus. It’s just not there. And anybody can file a lawsuit, but so far courts have upheld. And I should note this, too, that this has been the case all over the United States. I’m not the only governor who’s taken action. Probably every governor in the United States has taken some emergency action. Very few, if any of them have actually been struck down, very, very few.
Governor Inslee: (57:14)
So this is a response necessitated by this pandemic. And it’s one that our founding fathers who set up the state recognized when they created a system where governors could act in an emergency.
Speaker 2: (57:29)
Mayer, would you like to ask a follow up?
Governor Inslee: (57:32)
No follow up. Thank you very much.
Speaker 2: (57:32)
Any final words, Governor?
Governor Inslee: (57:37)
No. I just want to thank everyone. And I mean that. We’ve been in a long slog here, but we’re just not finished. And as we toil through this, I just hope people keep an eye on the prize, which is that we know these things can work. And that ought to give us just a little bit more energy to keep this effort up. So I want to thank everybody who keeps that spirit intact and please wash your hands and please mask up. Thanks very much.