PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — During a press conference Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee again urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, comparing the newly discovered omicron variant with the delta one that has plagued the state for months.
“The one thing we know about omicron — and this is a certainty — it makes sense to get vaccinated today — no matter what we find out about omicron,” Inslee said.
Inslee was joined by Lacy Fehrenbach, the Deputy Secretary for the state’s COVID response, and Washington’s secretary of health, Dr. Umair Shah, who told the state on Wednesday to be cautious about the new variant, but not to panic.
While the omicron variant has yet to be detected in Washington, Inslee said its arrival is inevitable.
“When this gets here, we’re going to know it,” he said. “We’re going to know how fast it is going through the population.”
Watch: Gov. Inslee full press conference below
Inslee said 34% of Washingtonians remain unvaccinated, presenting a danger to the state.
“The way to be active against this new variant is to be active against the old variant that is today killing people in the state of Washington,” he said.
Shah said the state has increased testing capacity and prioritized case investigation for those coming from countries where the new variant has been found.
He echoed Inslee’s plea to the public to get vaccinated.
“Not just (because of) omicron, but the fact that we are really just coming off of our delta surge, we have winter coming up, it’s going to be respiratory season,” Shah said.
Inslee said more Washingtonians have sought information on booster shots since omicron’s detection in two U.S. states.
The first confirmed case of the omicron variant in the U.S. was found in California Wednesday, followed by it being detected in a traveler in Minnesota.
Inslee also announced in a press release Thursday that FEMA will send mobile vaccination units to western Washington.
“This is an innovative model that will help increase equitable access to vaccination for all Washingtonians,” Inslee said.
The mobile vaccination site will be located at Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center, 31510 Pet Von Reichbauer Way S., Federal Way. Another mobile vaccination site is to be determined.
The mobile site is set to open December 20 and will be available for 30 days.
“To end this pandemic, it is critical vaccines are widely available for everyone. Adding this mobile unit to our toolkit will help us speed up the vaccination process and reach families who have had a more difficult time finding appointments,” Dr. Shah said in the release.
“We still have an extremely dangerous pandemic on our hands,” Inslee said in October during a press.
According to the governor, as of Oct. 28 nearly 91% of Washington’s state employees had verified their fully vaccinated status and more than 3% had received accommodation, while 2.9% of employees chose not to comply.
Inslee also commented on floods that have impacted large swathes of the state, assuring Washingtonians his administration will improve infrastructure and climate change mitigation tactics.
“We can’t just build up the entire towns of Northwest Washington to avoid floods,” Inslee said. “We have to defeat climate change at its source or we will continue to be overswept by floods and fires and invasive species destroying our seafood industry.”
He urged the state legislature to act on proposals he says will help address the issue at its heart.