Apr 21, 2020
Washington Governor Jay Inslee Coronavirus Press Briefing Transcript April 21
Washington governor Jay Inslee provided a press briefing on April 21 for COVID-19 in the state. He said the Washington stay-at-home order will last beyond the current May 4 “end date” and “return to public life will occur in measured steps.” Full transcript is here.
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Governor Jay Inslee: (00:00)
corners of the legislature. I announced my office would take decisive action to save our friends and our families from that fate and the vast majority of Washingtonians are staying home and slowing the spread, approving the power not merely of democratic government, but of individuals, families, businesses and educators to lead in their communities during a crisis. And today, our state health officer informed me the spread of COVID-19 is likely declining in Washington state. We see this in the analysis of point in time, data on hospitalizations, in confirmed cases and deaths from the beginning of this crisis to now. Now we know this crisis has shaken all of us. Our difficult, but necessary decisions in this fight have been painful for Washingtonians. Some of you watching right now understandably want to know when you can move on. Some Washingtonians want to know whether they’ll make rent or mortgage payments.
Governor Jay Inslee: (01:05)
Some are families who’ve put weddings on hold. Workers feel the burning need to get back to the stability and pride derived from their labors and business owners want to unlock their doors again and tell their regulars, “We’re back.” So tonight, I’d like to talk with you about what the process of lifting COVID-19 restrictions will look like. And it will look more like a turning of a dial than the flip of a switch. We’re going to take steps and then monitor to see whether they work or if we must continue to adapt. We will not be able to lift many of the restrictions by May 4th and we will let you know when we can lift those restrictions just as soon as we know. Washington’s likely decline in the spread of COVID-19 is encouraging. In the coming days, we will receive additional health modeling projecting the course of this virus and we hope it will give us cause to begin lifting certain restrictions.
Governor Jay Inslee: (02:11)
Now because of the great work in our hospital system, for instance, we believe we can soon allow some elective surgeries to resume provided health professionals have appropriate personal protective equipment. We also hope we can begin to let people take part in more outdoor recreation that is so much part of our identity as well as our physical and mental health. And because of the collaborative work my office has been able to do with the construction industry and labor unions, we have come up with a sensible plan for allowing limited return to construction with safety measures in place. Now we hope that the data comes in in the next few days so we can implement these measures. And we can some of these restrictions in the coming weeks if the health modeling holds up. The health of Washingtonians is our top priority. We need healthy people in order to build a healthy economy.
Governor Jay Inslee: (03:13)
The data tells us that if we were to lift all restrictions right now or even two weeks from now, this decline would almost certainly stop and the spread of COVID-19 would go up. Our gains in this fight have been hard won thanks to the sacrifices of countless Washingtonians and to turn back on this successful temporary approach now would be disastrous. So this recovery requires a strategic approach guided by science, not politics, and it does not differ greatly from the recovery plans of other Western States. It does not differ greatly from the principles of the White House’s National Recovery Outline either. Our recovery begins with widely available testing for individuals who may have COVID-19, tracing with whom they have had contact, and having individuals isolate or quarantine if they could be transmitters of the virus. Between our state and local health jurisdictions, we expect roughly 1,500 workers focused solely on contact tracing by the second week of May.
Governor Jay Inslee: (04:32)
This workforce will be a rapid response team, somewhat like a fire brigade. When your house catches fire, you call the fire department and they come quickly. We are standing up a broad workforce that we’ll see something similar involving state employees from the Department of Health, local health jurisdictions, members of the Washington National Guard, volunteer healthcare workers, and many others. Now our state and others unfortunately remain drastically behind on what we need for testing supplies. The simple fact is that the nation is sorely lacking test kits and today I sent a letter to the Vice President saying as much. The governors are not wrong on this, both Republicans and Democrats. In Washington, we have more lab capacity than we have test kits and a lack of supplies that keep us from getting everyone tested who should be.
Governor Jay Inslee: (05:33)
A variety of barriers have kept us from taking more than about 4,000 tests per day. We need to be processing about 20 to 30,000 tests a day for our contact tracing plan to really work. We need swabs, vials, reagents, and other supplies and personnel. We’re doing all we can in this state to acquire that. We need the federal government to help us more. Now until we have a COVID-19 vaccine, workplaces are going to look much different. This will be easier for some companies and workers to implement than others. Ample physical distancing will be required. Screening, teleworking, rigorous cleaning standards, and equipment or supplies for employees will all be necessary and we’re going to provide guidance for industries to know when and how they can reopen. Now at the end of all this, many in our state will need some kind of help to recover and this may be our greatest challenge in the economic recovery.
Governor Jay Inslee: (06:39)
We have simply got to redouble our efforts to protect the most vulnerable amongst us, those over 65 or people with underlying health issues. We need to bolster our food banks and make sure every Washingtonian has food on their table. We’ve got to protect the ability for people to have safe housing. We need more behavioral health services for anxiety and depression and substance abuse because the effects of this pandemic have hit more than just our immune systems and our bank accounts. The reality we need to be aware of is simply this, we are going to have to steel ourselves against this virus for quite some time. It is going to affect our daily lives in many ways for months and we have to be aware that it could come back at us in waves, but our performance as a state has been exemplary to date and we should have confidence in our ability to act decisively in the days to come.
Governor Jay Inslee: (07:45)
We need to build the infrastructure that allows people to connect online, socially, academically, and for businesses. That means building up our broadband network so every Washingtonian can stay connected to people and opportunities. We need to reckon with the realities that disparities in our communities mean not every family can recover as quickly as others. Disparities in access to healthcare, to the internet, to affordable childcare, to social services, to employment opportunities and more, they’ve already been exposed in ways really not seen in modern times. So this virus will continue to affect our daily lives for some time and we will need to accelerate investments and innovation in our economy, making it easier for both businesses and workers to navigate new realities of life in the era of COVID-19 and obviously we need to come together. State and community leaders from all corners of Washington to build an informed consensus on a safe and sustainable recovery.
Governor Jay Inslee: (08:57)
To that end, I will soon be appointing three leadership groups consisting of key community leaders to advise my office on the public health and health care system on a passage to a return to safe work and economic recovery and reopening our businesses and one providing social supports to the most vulnerable of those effected by COVID-19. Now this crisis has a tied us to the mast through a storm, but the efforts of 7.6 million Washingtonians are keeping us afloat and we’ve already come through part of this storm together. We’re still here together and we’re still faithful in what we can accomplish as a community. Franklin Delanor Roosevelt we know said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Well, we’re looking forward to making advances against this virus and we know that only science and data and informed reasoning and confidence in ourselves is going to lift us out of this crisis.
Governor Jay Inslee: (10:16)
So I want to thank you for supporting our efforts to protect our state from the disaster posed by this virus. Washingtonians are going through enormous suffering, but they’re also doing amazing things on the path to recovery. So stay home and stay healthy. Wash your hands and we’ll talk again soon. Thanks.