Dear friends and neighbors,

As your state senator and a career first responder, I want you to know the Legislature is taking swift and sure action to make sure our public health organizations have the support they need to address the spread of coronavirus.

With more cases confirmed in Washington state, including the nation’s first known fatalities, the Senate passed an operating budget last week that dramatically increased funding for coronavirus response. 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 funding to $100 million.

The spread of coronavirus was the last thing anyone wanted to hear, but we prepared for it all the same — and we stand ready to provide 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.

While we need to protect the public first and foremost, we also need to help our local businesses weather the economic impacts of the virus. Businesses that rely heavily on trade with Asia, such as Cosmo Technologies in Cosmopolis, have been severely disrupted by quarantines that have shut down Asian ports. For Cosmo, which ships more than 97 percent of its products to Asia, the impact is staggering. To that end, my colleague Sen. Dean Takko of Longview sponsored, and I cosponsored, an amendment to add $5 million to the operating budget for loans and other assistance to businesses blindsided by the pandemic.

In the meantime, I urge everyone to observe best practices to prevent the spread of the virus. The short list 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 coronavirus and ways to stay healthy, you can watch this work session where health officials briefed the Senate Ways & Means Committee or go to this webpage from the state Department of Health, which also has a call center to answer questions on how the virus is spread and what to do if you have symptoms. If you have a question, just call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

For now, it’s important to remember that we have the best health experts in the country working on this, backed by the full support of the Legislature. And I say that as a first responder whose job is public safety.

Let’s all be smart and do our part to contain this threat.