PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday the path to reopening the state will “look more like the turning of a dial than the flip of a switch.”
Inslee said the spread of COVID-19 in Washington is likely declining and making plans to move on and reopen businesses will hinge upon continued health modeling to help project the virus’s course.
The governor said state leaders will start taking steps toward lifting some restrictions and monitoring their effectiveness before moving forward but it will be a slow process.
“We will not be able to lift many of the restrictions by May 4,” Inslee said.
He wants recovery to focus on three aspects: putting public health first, followed by getting people back to work in a safe way and finally supporting the community through the recovery.
The governor said he is appointing three leadership groups to advise his office on public health and the healthcare system, safe work and economic recovery and social supports for the must vulnerable and those affected by COVID-19.
Inslee wants a strategic approach guided by science. He likened it to the federal recovery plan and outlined four key steps: widely-available testing, quick isolation for those who may have the virus, identifying people who came into contact with a positive case and getting them into quarantine.
By the second week of May, Inslee expects to have about 1,500 workers dedicated to tracing possible contacts.
Inslee said non-emergency surgeries may soon restart. He also hopes to let people return to outdoor reactional activities once more. State leaders have put together a plan to allow some construction to resume, though with limits, Inslee said.
“The data tells us that if we were to lift all restrictions right now—or even two weeks from now—this decline would almost certainly stop and the spread of COVID-19 would go up,” Inslee said. “Our gains in this fight have been hard-won thanks to the sacrifices of countless Washingtonians and to turn back on this successful temporary approach now would be disastrous.”
Despite putting a plan in motion to move forward, Inslee said the coronavirus will remain a threat until a vaccine is developed.
“Workplaces will continue to look and operate differently until one is available,” he said. In the meantime, Inslee wants businesses to follow guidelines on cleaning protocols, physical distancing and teleworking.
His address comes on the heels of Gov. Kate Brown releasing a draft plan to re-open Oregon in a methodical fashion.
Southern Washington responds
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle told KOIN 6 News getting Washington’s economy back up and running will “take a step-by-step process with strong protocols.”
McEnerny-Ogle and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler believe saliva testing for the presence of the coronavirus could help speed up the process.
“This would be a great opportunity to eliminate several steps, several pieces to testing,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
A Vancouver biotech company is working on a saliva test that could provide results in 1-2 days. The two leaders sent a letter to Gov. Inslee on Tuesday asking him to consider the idea.
“We were hoping as the governor looked at different opportunities that are there, if this is a valid testing then it could be something that could be used and perhaps used to allow construction under certain protocols,” said McEnerny-Ogle.