NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Vice President Mike Pence shows up to discuss coronavirus response

It’s time for anoth­er install­ment of of our spe­cial series COVID-19 Update, bring­ing you the lat­est devel­op­ments on the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break that pub­lic health author­i­ties in the Pacif­ic North­west are work­ing dili­gent­ly to con­tain. Unlike some of the non­sense that is unfor­tu­nate­ly cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, all the infor­ma­tion you’ll find here is accu­rate and based on sound science.

Today, COVID-19 updates arrived at a rapid fire pace, and not just from pub­lic agen­cies, but from com­pa­nies and non­prof­its and church­es too. SARS-CoV­‑2 is on every­body’s minds. It is now so firm­ly plant­ed in the local con­scious­ness that the Seat­tle Times has estab­lished a sec­tion on its home­page titled “Coro­n­avirus”.

Seattle Times coronavirus coverage

A screen­shot of the Seat­tle Times’ coro­n­avirus sec­tion, fea­tured promi­nent­ly on

Today, the Pacif­ic North­west was vis­it­ed by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, who Don­ald Trump has unwise­ly put in charge of the regime’s response to the COVID-19 out­break. Pence arrived at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) on a Unit­ed States Air Force Boe­ing C‑32 at around half past three in the after­noon, and was greet­ed by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee as he reached the bot­tom of the airstairs.

Inslee is no longer shak­ing hands with peo­ple due to COVID-19 and is instead encour­ag­ing peo­ple to sub­sti­tute hand­shakes with elbow bumps.

He did this with Pence.

After­wards, Pence met with a del­e­ga­tion of state, local, and fed­er­al elect­ed lead­ers from Wash­ing­ton State to dis­cuss the joint inter-agency gov­ern­ment response to COVID-19. Most mem­bers of Con­gress were there along with Inslee.

This meet­ing was fol­lowed by a press conference.

Pence was flanked by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and, unusu­al­ly, the state’s entire Unit­ed States House del­e­ga­tion with the notable excep­tion of Den­ny Heck.

You can see in this still all of the House mem­bers lined up from left to right.

An unusual sight: Washington's U.S. House delegation together

An unusu­al sight: Wash­ing­ton’s U.S. House del­e­ga­tion together

Let’s con­tin­ue our roundup with a wel­come announce­ment from Wash­ing­ton State Insur­ance Com­mis­sion­er Mike Krei­dler’s office.

Insur­ance Com­mis­sion­er Mike Krei­dler issued an emer­gency order to Wash­ing­ton state health insur­ers requir­ing them to waive copays and deductibles for any con­sumer requir­ing test­ing for coro­n­avirus (COVID-19). Insur­ers also must:

  • Allow a one-time ear­ly refill for pre­scrip­tion drugs.
  • Sus­pend any pri­or autho­riza­tion require­ment for treat­ment or test­ing of COVID-19.

In addi­tion, if an insur­er does not have enough med­ical providers in its net­work to pro­vide test­ing and treat­ment for COVID-19, it must allow enrollees to be treat­ed by anoth­er provider with­in a rea­son­able dis­tance at no addi­tion­al cost. The order is effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly and applies to all state-reg­u­lat­ed health insur­ance plans and short-term lim­it­ed dura­tion med­ical plans until May 4th, 2020.

“Con­sumers are right­ly con­cerned about pre­ven­tion, test­ing and pos­si­ble treat­ment,” Krei­dler said. “My emer­gency order pro­vides guid­ance to health insur­ers and should help reas­sure the pub­lic that we will take all nec­es­sary steps to pro­tect them.”

Krei­dler is using pow­ers grant­ed to him fol­low­ing the recent statewide emer­gency that Gov. Jay Inslee declared to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton res­i­dents against the spread of the coronavirus.

When the gov­er­nor issues an emer­gency procla­ma­tion, the com­mis­sion­er can issue an emer­gency order relat­ed to health care cov­er­age to ensure access to care.

The order lasts six­ty days and can be extend­ed by the com­mis­sion­er for an addi­tion­al thir­ty days, as long as the governor’s emer­gency procla­ma­tion remains in effect. Krei­dler urged state res­i­dents with­out health insur­ance to con­tact the Wash­ing­ton Health Ben­e­fit Exchange to deter­mine if they qual­i­fy for free health cov­er­age or a spe­cial enroll­ment for indi­vid­ual health insurance.

Krei­dler also appeared at a news con­fer­ence with Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee at the Capi­tol to advise Wash­ing­to­ni­ans of the issuance of the order. The news con­fer­ence can be watched on demand cour­tesy of TVW.

A few hours lat­er, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son released a state­ment warn­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans to be on the look­out for preda­to­ry scams.

Said Fer­gu­son:

“Scam­mers often prey on fear. As the COVID-19 out­break and response con­tin­ue, Wash­ing­to­ni­ans may see peo­ple adver­tis­ing prod­ucts or ser­vices they claim treat or cure the dis­ease. There is no spe­cif­ic antivi­ral treat­ment rec­om­mend­ed for COVID-19 at this time. Any claims that a prod­uct or ser­vice can cure, kill, or destroy COVID-19 are prob­a­bly false, and should be report­ed to our office.”

To file a com­plaint, vis­it the AGO’s web­site.

And now here’s the lat­est bul­letin from Seat­tle-King Coun­ty Pub­lic Health.

Case update

COVID-19 test results have come back from a vari­ety of lab­o­ra­to­ries con­firm­ing 20 new cas­es of COVID-19 in King Coun­ty res­i­dents includ­ing one death in a case pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by Pub­lic Health. This new death was in a woman in her nineties, hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health. She died on 3/3/20. With these twen­ty new results, the total num­ber of cas­es in King Coun­ty is fifty-one. The total num­ber of deaths is ten.

As more lab­o­ra­to­ry capac­i­ty for test­ing comes online, more tests and results will be report­ed. We will no longer be rou­tine­ly pro­vid­ing details about each case.

King County Novel Coronavirus Call Center

  • If you are in King Coun­ty and believe you were exposed to a con­firmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a health­care provider with ques­tions about COVID-19, con­tact our nov­el coro­n­avirus call cen­ter: 206–477-3977.
  • The call cen­ter will be open dai­ly from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM PT.
  • For gen­er­al con­cerns and ques­tions about COVID-19, please call the State Nov­el Coro­n­avirus Call Cen­ter at 800–525-0127.

When to seek medical evaluation and advice

  • If you have symp­toms like cough, fever, or oth­er res­pi­ra­to­ry prob­lems, call your health­care provider. Do not go to the emer­gency room. Emer­gency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most crit­i­cal needs.
  • If you are hav­ing a med­ical emer­gency, call 9–1‑1.

King Coun­ty has also issued new guid­ance for pub­lic gatherings.

  • Peo­ple at high­er risk of severe ill­ness should stay home and away from large groups of peo­ple as much as pos­si­ble, includ­ing pub­lic places with lots of peo­ple and large gath­er­ings where there will be close con­tact with oth­ers. Peo­ple at high­er risk include: 
    • Peo­ple 60 and older
    • Peo­ple with under­ly­ing health con­di­tions includ­ing heart dis­ease, lung dis­ease, or diabetes
    • Peo­ple who have weak­ened immune systems
    • Peo­ple who are pregnant
  • Work­places should enact mea­sures that allow peo­ple who can work from home to do so. Tak­ing these mea­sures can help reduce the num­ber of work­ers who come into con­tact with peo­ple with COVID-19 and help min­i­mize absen­teeism due to illness. 
    • Some peo­ple need to be at work to pro­vide essen­tial ser­vices of great ben­e­fit to the com­mu­ni­ty. They can also take steps in their work­places to min­i­mize risk.
  • If you can fea­si­bly avoid bring­ing large groups of peo­ple togeth­er, con­sid­er post­pon­ing events and gatherings.
  • Pub­lic Health is not rec­om­mend­ing clos­ing schools at this time unless there has been a con­firmed case in the school.
  • All peo­ple should not go out when they are sick.
  • Avoid vis­it­ing hos­pi­tals, long term care facil­i­ties, or nurs­ing homes to the extent pos­si­ble. If you need to go, lim­it your time there and keep six feet away from patients.

Mean­while, north of the Cana­di­an bor­der, they’ve got more COVID-19 cases.

VICTORIA — Adri­an Dix, Min­is­ter of Health, and Dr. Bon­nie Hen­ry, B.C.‘s provin­cial health offi­cer, have issued the fol­low­ing joint state­ment regard­ing updates on the nov­el coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) in British Columbia:

“We are announc­ing eight new cas­es of COVID-19 for a total of 21 cas­es in British Colum­bia. The indi­vid­u­als are in the Van­cou­ver Coastal and Fras­er Health regions and were con­firmed pos­i­tive based on BC Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol testing.”

“Cas­es 14, 15, 16 and 17 are close con­tacts of case 10. They are a man in his twen­ties, a man in his thir­ties, a woman in her fifties and a woman in her sixties.”

“Cas­es 18 and 19 are a woman in her fifties and a man in his six­ties who reside in a sin­gle house­hold. They recent­ly returned from Iran.”

“Case 20 is a woman in her fifties who fre­quent­ly trav­els to Metro Van­cou­ver from the Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton area. She is stay­ing with fam­i­ly in the Fras­er Health region.”

“Case 21 is a woman in her fifties with no recent trav­el his­to­ry who resides in the Fras­er Health region.”

“Four B.C. patients have now ful­ly recov­ered and one patient remains in crit­i­cal con­di­tion in care at hos­pi­tal. The remain­ing indi­vid­u­als with COVID-19 are in iso­la­tion at home with sup­port and mon­i­tor­ing from pub­lic health teams.”

“Pub­lic health teams con­tin­ue to iden­ti­fy and noti­fy close con­tacts of all active cas­es. They will be sup­port­ed to self-iso­late for four­teen days and are being mon­i­tored for symptoms.”

“We are con­tin­u­ing wide­spread test­ing by screen­ing British Columbians and trav­ellers with symp­toms, along with their close con­tacts, to iden­ti­fy cas­es of COVID-19 and take imme­di­ate action as we have seen today.”

To the south, Ore­gon report­ed no new COVID-19 cases.

” Tonight we are not report­ing test results due to a large vol­ume of sam­ples sub­mit­ted to the Ore­gon State Pub­lic Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry,” state offi­cials explained. “We will share results tomorrow.”

Regard­ing new guide­lines for test­ing, the agency said:

Since the out­break of COVID-19, OHA [Ore­gon Health Author­i­ty] has relied on CDC guid­ance about who to test for the virus, which includes focus­ing on indi­vid­u­als expe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms of the virus — fever, cough, short­ness of breath —  and who either trav­eled from main­land Chi­na or had close con­tact with a con­firmed case in the four­teen days before they became sick.

Today, the CDC expand­ed that test­ing guid­ance to give clin­i­cians more dis­cre­tion to deter­mine whether to seek test­ing for COVID-19 for patients. That guid­ance encour­ages clin­i­cians to use their judg­ment in decid­ing whether a patient has signs and symp­toms of COVID-19, and whether that patient needs to be tested.

OHA is adapt­ing the new CDC guid­ance by encour­ag­ing clin­i­cians to pur­sue COVID-19 test­ing when eval­u­a­tion of hos­pi­tal­ized patients who test neg­a­tive for influen­za indi­cates like­li­hood of viral pneumonia.

OHA guid­ance will also pro­vide a stream­lined process for clin­i­cians to request a test from the Ore­gon State Pub­lic Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry. This includes cre­at­ing an online form for OHA epi­demi­ol­o­gists to elec­tron­i­cal­ly approve test­ing requests if the clinician’s patient meets the test­ing criteria.

Final­ly, the Seat­tle Times has a sev­er­al good sto­ries about how the nov­el coro­n­avirus is affect­ing life around these parts. Read this sto­ry to under­stand why Northshore School Dis­trict is clos­ing all of its facil­i­ties for two weeks and shift­ing to a remote learn­ing set­up. Read this sto­ry to find out how local church­es are chang­ing their litur­gi­cal ser­vices to keep peo­ple safe. And read this sto­ry to learn how upcom­ing sport­ing events could be affect­ed by COVID-19.

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  1. […] del­e­ga­tion, with the excep­tion of Den­ny Heck, returned home ear­ly to dis­cuss the coro­n­avirus response with Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Gov­er­nor Jay Insle…, which is why they were not present for the […]

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