I know we are all concerned with the coronavirus outbreak and have many questions about what we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy.

First and foremost, I urge you to follow the directions of Governor Inslee and our state and local public health officials. Effective immediately, there is now a Stay Home, Stay Healthy order in Washington state, similar to recent orders issued in California and Oregon.

This requires everyone to stay home unless you are traveling for an essential activity like getting groceries, refilling prescriptions, going to a doctor’s appointment, and working at an essential business. Restaurants may continue to offer take-out and delivery service.

Previous efforts encouraging people to avoid crowds (beaches, parks, trails, etc.) have not been successful. Too many people are ignoring these requests and dismissing the seriousness of this pandemic, which means additional action is required.

This is really important as, like what’s happened in communities in Italy and China, our hospital system is expected to reach max capacity in the coming days. The chart below shows how quickly the ICU bed shortage will hit Washington with several other states not far behind.

I support Governor Inslee’s order as it is necessary to protect public health and limit the load being placed on our health care system. Walks in your neighborhood are ok. Walks in parks and on trails are not. Going outside is ok as long as you can maintain six feet of distance between others.

Please avoid the impulse of overstocking your shelves. The supply chains are still healthy and producing the everyday goods we all rely on. There is no need to buy more than you need. Please leave some for your neighbors. If everyone sticks to their normal buying habits, we’ll have enough to make sure everyone – including our health care workers, seniors and other people who are ill – have the supplies and items they need.

Yesterday President Trump issued a “major disaster” declaration for Washington, which will free up federal funding for crisis counseling and mental health training. Washington will also be receiving 1.6 million additional masks, 12 million disposable gloves, and 650,000 disposable gowns from the Strategic National Stockpile. These are the desperately needed personal protection equipment (PPE) resources that help keep our doctors, nurses, and first responders safe while caring for those who are sick.

This is completely uncharted territory, so naturally there are a lot of questions. Here are a few helpful links that will answer some of your questions.

Before the Legislature adjourned for the year, we appropriated $200 million to fund our state’s response, including monitoring, testing and support for local health departments. Lawmakers also acted to:

  • ensure people receiving unemployment insurance benefits will be able to receive them even if they can’t meet the work search requirement due to quarantine,
  • mitigate costs to businesses due to increased numbers of workers receiving unemployment insurance,
  • reimburse nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response,
  • keep school employees eligible for health insurance for the rest of the school year even if they don’t meet the required number of work hours because of the coronavirus state of emergency.

I expect this is only the beginning of our work. The Legislature stands ready if and when additional action is needed.

Friends, we will get through this crisis, but we have to work together and follow the guidelines being laid out by the governor and public health officials. And if you are able, please consider donating blood during this time of great need.

Wash your hands, stay at least six feet away from other people, and please stay home.

My dad used to say, “you don’t always get to pick your challenges, but you do get to pick how you respond to them.”  We can do this.

Patty Kuderer
State Senator
48th Legislative District