OLYMPIA — As more cases of coronavirus are being confirmed in Washington state, including the nation’s first known fatalities, the state Senate is passing directives and funding for a full response from public health organizations.

“This is the news we haven’t wanted to hear but had to prepare for,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), chair of the Senate Health Committee. “The good news is we have a phenomenal public health system in our state, and last week we passed a budget that will help our public health organizations implement the plans they have for responding to exactly this kind of crisis. They know what to do, and we know what they need – and are providing it. We stand ready to provide additional support as needed.”

The Senate’s proposed operating budget increased funding for public health organizations responding to the coronavirus, and added funding to address local businesses that might be impacted. That funding level will likely grow during budget negotiations given the rapidly evolving situation and today’s request from Washington’s Secretary of Health John Wiesman to increase the outbreak response funding to up to $100 million.

“We are protecting the public first and foremost, just as we helped our public health organizations contain the measles outbreak last year in Clark County. In addition to the funding in the Senate budget for public health, there is flexibility in the budget to provide more if needed,” Cleveland said. “At the same time, we also need to make sure our businesses are able to weather the economic impacts of the virus.”

The Senate Ways & Means Committee invited health officials to provide an overview on the state of the coronavirus in a work session today. That hearing can be watched here and includes recommendations for best practices by Washington residents concerned about the virus. Also today, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Cleveland that commits the state to recommending and implementing best practices for infection control — in workplaces, in homes, and in any public venues.

“I think everyone knows at this point to take this seriously,” Cleveland said. “Everyone should also know that we have the best health experts in the country working on this, backed by the full support of the Legislature. We are taking all possible steps to protect the public and minimize the spread of the virus.”

For the latest information about the spread of the virus, see the dedicated page on the Washington State Department of Health website, and for information about what to do to help prevent the spread, see this site from Public Health – Seattle & King County.

The Washington State Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.