Inslee shares Washington pandemic story with US House COVID Committee | by Governor Jay Inslee | Washington State Governor’s Office | January 2022

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Nearly two years to the day after the first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in the United States in Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee testified before the United States House Special Subcommittee on the Crisis of the coronavirus on how the state has responded and lessons learned.

Inslee was joined on the panel by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser.

LOOK: Video here.

“We had the [nation’s] very first case on January 21, 2020. We had our first death in America on February 29. We started this without a model. We couldn’t take any ideas from Colorado or anywhere else. We were the first and we made very early decisions which I think served us well.

“Number one; we have decided to follow the science and the data and our public health experts, and be very vocal against the deeply malicious efforts not to spread the truth about this vaccine that have been so damaging. Second, we made the precious decision that saving lives was our first priority and that it must remain steadfast Third, we decided that the best way to reopen our economy was to bring down the virus.

“Now the question is, did these strategies work? They’ve been hard at work and I want to tell you about that,” Inslee said.

Using science to save lives and reopen safely

In addition to dealing with the first confirmed case of COVID-19, the February 29, Washington also became the first state with a documented COVID death in the country. It was the first of more than 10,000 deaths Washington has seen to date. It was also the start of a massive public health mobilization that ultimately saved more than 17,000 Washingtonians.

Experts estimate that Washington’s early and ongoing public health actions prevented the deaths of about 17,000 Washingtonians.

“From day one, we have remained grounded in the hard facts of this pandemic and have made decisions based on the best available data and advice from public health experts. Where the data indicated places where COVID-19 transmission was occurring or activities that amplified the spread of COVID-19, we adopted mitigation measures to help reverse the trend. – Written Testimony of Governor Jay Inslee

In his opening remarks and written testimony, Inslee emphasized that Washington state’s response was based on science and the advice of public health experts with the top priority of saving lives. He noted that the key to economic recovery lies in suppressing the virus as quickly as possible and that continued diligence in masking and vaccination efforts is essential.

Economic impacts have varied from state to state. Washington State has shown that a state can adopt strong public health measures and promote a strong economic recovery.

Inslee attributed the state’s success in bending the curve during the initial wave to early actions that limited gatherings and non-essential business interactions and required face masks. As testing and vaccinations became available, the state developed safe reopening plans and launched a concerted outreach effort with trusted community leaders and messengers from vaccine-hesitant communities.

“At the end of the day, no intervention is as important as vaccination. Since the vaccine rollout began in December 2020, we have made great strides in getting our people vaccinated and we remain one of the most vaccinated states in the country.

As of January 18, nearly 80% of adults in Washington are fully immunized and more than 50% of the eligible population has received a booster. »

Inslee also credited the state vaccination obligation for state employees and public and private health and long-term care workers with rising vaccination rates. As of December 31, 2021, the vaccination rate among the state’s workforce had nearly doubled, from less than 50% to nearly 96%.

“We have taken these steps to protect the lives of our state employees, make it safer for Washingtonians to receive state services, and ensure the long-term continuity of operations for our state agencies.”

Today, Inslee and public health officials remain focused on vaccinations, testing and face masks, with particular attention to ensuring equitable access for the most vulnerable or disproportionately affected Washingtonians.

With the emergence of the more transmissible Omicron variant, Inslee announced earlier this month that the state is releasing approximately 10 million additional protective masks from our public supply for distribution in local communities, including through K-12 schools, local governments, nonprofits and businesses, and local health departments. More than 5 million of these masks have already been distributed in the past two weeks.

The state is also stepping up efforts to improve access to rapid home antigen testing.

Earlier this month, Inslee and the state Department of Health announced that the state’s order of 5.5 million additional home tests. Washingtonians will soon be able to order home tests for free through a new state web portal, and the state will send approximately 1 million tests to K-12 schools and an additional 1 million tests to local health and community organizations in order to reach priority populations.

Inslee stressed during his testimony that masks, vaccinations and testing have been — and remain — crucial to the safe reopening of schools and businesses.

“We believe the fastest way to spur economic recovery and growth is to suppress this virus and keep everyone safe,” Inslee said.

“It’s not done with us yet”

The governor noted that help from the federal government was still needed. Supplies such as tests, PPE, vaccine boosters and therapeutics will be needed to keep communities safe.

Inslee also called on congressional leaders to provide more support for behavioral health needs. He noted that the mental and psychological toll of the pandemic is impossible to ignore and must be integral to how the nation supports a healthy recovery.

“While much of our focus is on the backlog of physical health issues facing our communities, the pandemic has also had a significant impact on the emotional and mental health of each of us individually and collectively as a nation. We need to strengthen our behavioral health infrastructure so that we can provide the care people need and deserve.

Inslee said continuing to seek expert public health advice and investing in public health will not only help end the current pandemic, but will equip the country to respond to future health threats.

“I applaud the efforts of this committee to record the experiences of experts and leaders during this tumultuous time. I would also ask you to remember that this remains an ongoing emergency, and one that could be repeated if we do not stay the course on public health measures that have proven effective in preventing the spread of the virus,” Inslee said.

“We must continue to heed the advice of our public health experts and the pleas of our healthcare workers. We need to expand our public health infrastructure in the United States. Our success in concluding this response soon and preparing others rests on the ability of all levels of government to respond quickly at the appropriate scale to the evolving threat approaching our people.

“Despite how many of us have grown weary of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not over for us yet – and we must stay the course to ensure it never happens again.”

Read the governor’s full written testimony here.

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