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Coronavirus: Local lawmakers request additional sample testing kits from federal government

SEATTLE — Republican and Democrat members of the Washington congressional delegation requested additional coronavirus sample testing kits for the state on Tuesday.

The lawmakers made their request in a letter sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services.

In their letter, the lawmakers explained how the state’s testing capacity exceeds the availability of the supplies needed to collect the samples.

The gap in the availability of sample testing kits limits the state’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the lawmakers said.

“Adequate access to testing supplies is critical to the prompt identification of cases necessary to allow public health responders to take protective measures and provide necessary treatment, all of which are essential to save lives and curb the COVID-19 public health emergency in Washington State,” the lawmakers said.

Click here to read the letter in full.

The Washington congressional delegation includes Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Latest Washington News Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Rick Larsen, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Rep. Suzan DelBene, Rep. Denny Heck, Rep. Derek Kilmer, Rep. Dan Newhouse and Rep. Kim Schrier.

The lawmakers’ request for more sample testing kits comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continue to rise.

The statewide death toll as reported by the Department of Health had reached 394 among 8,682 confirmed coronavirus cases as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the counties with the highest totals: King County has 226 deaths among 3,460 cases; Snohomish County has 59 deaths among 1,596 cases; Pierce County has 15 deaths among 644 cases.



Click here to see where other counties in the state stand.

Information from local officials

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced Monday that due to the coronavirus outbreak schools will remain physically closed for the remainder of the school year and that the state’s more than 1.2 million public and private K-12 students will continue distance learning until the end of June.

Click here to watch a full replay of the news conference.

Schools have been shut statewide since March 17, and were originally scheduled to reopen April 27. Now, that closure is extended until midnight June 19 — when the spring term ends — and schools are encouraged to continue to provide distance learning. The order also asks schools to start planning for a potential expansion of the order into the summer and fall.

Under the order, some in-person and on-site services like meetings with seniors to help finish up final projects and tutoring support is allowed only if social distancing and proper hygiene practices are followed.

This announcement comes as President Trump warned Americans to prepare for what could be one of the roughest weeks yet against the coronavirus.

On Thursday, Inslee extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 4. The order was previously set to expire on April 6. The restrictions remain the same: schools will remained closed, gatherings are not permitted and only essential travel and work is permitted. All businesses other than those deemed essential will remain closed. Businesses that are working remotely can continue to do so.

Information from the White House, federal officials

Congressional leaders are jolting ahead with another coronavirus rescue package as President Donald Trump indicated Monday that Americans will need more aid during the stark pandemic and economic shutdown.

>> How to make fabric masks during COVID-19 pandemic

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said another $1 trillion is needed, beyond the just-passed $2.2 trillion effort. She wants another round of direct payments to Americans and more money for companies to keep making payroll. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said in recent days that health care should top the list, signaling his intent to get to work on a new bill.

It’s a rare sign of emerging consensus as Washington responds to the public health emergency and severe economic fallout that is ransacking communities nationwide, a crisis on par with a war effort or the Great Depression.

The contours of the package are still being debated and any votes in Congress remain a logistical conundrum. The House and Senate adjourned for most of the month, as part of strict stay-at-home orders from public health officials to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.



How you can protect yourself and what to do if you think you were exposed

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Patients reportedly have mild to severe respiratory illness. These are steps health officials recommend to protect yourself:

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease
Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease
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: coronavirus@kingcounty.gov.
For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, Press Release Distribution Service call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127 and press #.


Cases and guidelines for senior living facilities

Senior living facilities have been the focal point of the state’s fight against the spread of coronavirus, as health officials said older adults with preexisting conditions are the most vulnerable. Inslee announced new rules around nursing homes and assisted living facilities centered around visitors, screening, and precautionary measures.

Visitors must be adults and the visit must take place in the resident’s room. This does not apply to end-of-life situations.
All visitors must follow COVID-19 screening and follow reasonable precautionary measures. Precautionary measures include, but are not limited to, wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, or visiting in designated locations.
All visitors must sign into a visitor’s log. Owners and operators must retain that log for 30 days.
Employees or volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift.
People who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and who test positive for COVID-19 must be isolated away from other people.
Owners, operators, staff and volunteers are prohibited from disclosing protected and confidential health information, except as otherwise provided by law or with the resident’s consent.
The rules are expected to be in effect until midnight on April 9, 2020.

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