Dear friends and neighbors,

As more cases of coronavirus are being confirmed in Washington state, including the nation’s first known fatalities, I want to assure you that the state Senate is taking fast action to ensure that our public health organizations have the support they need for a full response.

Last week we passed an operating budget that dramatically increased funding for public health organizations responding to the coronavirus. Even more funding could be on the way, given the rapidly evolving situation and Monday’s request from Washington’s Secretary of Health John Wiesman to increase the outbreak response funding to $100 million.

Though none of this is news we wanted to hear, we had to prepare for it nevertheless, and we did — and we are ready to respond with additional funding as needed. The good news is we have a phenomenal public health system in our state, and we have been making sure they have the resources to do everything possible to keep the public safe.

Our first priority is protecting the public, just as we helped our public health organizations contain last year’s measles outbreak in Clark County. But we also need to make sure our local businesses are able to weather the economic impacts of the virus. A number of businesses that rely heavily on trade with Asia, for instance, have been severely disrupted by quarantines that have shut down Asian ports. To that end, we added $5 million to the operating budget to provide loans and other assistance to businesses blindsided by the pandemic.

At the same time, the Senate passed my resolution on Monday committing the state to recommend and implement best practices for infection control — in workplaces, in homes, and in public venues. A short list of best practices includes:

  • Washing your hands often, coughing into a tissue or elbow, and avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Staying home if you’re sick.
  • If you have symptoms like cough, fever or other respiratory problems, call your healthcare provider before you go to a clinic or emergency room.

For more information on the virus and ways to stay healthy, you can watch this work session where state health officials briefed the Senate Ways & Means Committee Monday on the state of the coronavirus and recommendations for best practices. Even more information can be found on this webpage from the state Department of Health, which also has a call center with updates on what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms. If you have a question, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

We are fortunate to have the best health experts in the country working on this, backed by the full support of the Legislature. Please know we will continue to work together to meet the challenges of this public health emergency.