Gov. Inslee says additional resources are being given to assist COVID-19 surge

Governor Jay Inslee announced a number of resources to assist as the state sees a rise in COVID-19 cases, being cited as due to the Omicron variant.

As part of his announcement, no new rollbacks, restrictions or closures were named on businesses or residents.

On Wednesday, the governor said that steps have been taken to contain the spread. 

“We are seeing more COVID cases now than at any point during the entire pandemic and our hospitalizations are near the peak of Delta. Omicron is more contagious, and more people will likely get sick,” Inslee said. “We are providing additional tools and resources to help protect Washingtonians.”

In a post to Gov. Inslee’s Medium page, the recent announcement has three main components.

Expanded Testing

The Department of Health has orders out for 5.5 million more at-home tests as part of a goal to acquire at-home tests to help individuals have better access. 

According to Gov. Inslee, the state has received 800 thousand at-home tests, with the rest coming in the next week or two.

The state has partnered with Amazon and CareEvolution to expand the testing infrastructure and create a web portal so families can order tests directly to their home for no charge. 

More than 3.5 million of the tests the state has ordered goes toward this effort. The expectation is that the portal will open mid-January.

“Amazon is pleased to bring needed COVID tests to individuals and families across Washington state through this partnership with Governor Inslee’s office to leverage our warehousing, logistics, package tracking, and last-mile delivery network” said Gopal Pillai, Vice President of Amazon Distribution & Fulfillment Services.

The state also plans to make these tests available in other ways. This will include sending 1 million to schools to help schools meet increased testing needs and 1 million to local health organizations in order reach priority populations in their communities, such as people in long term care facilities, homeless shelters, or through key community organizations who serve people at increased risk for COVID-19 or lack of access to the online portal.

Increasing vaccination availability

WA State Department of Health is working to expand booster vaccine availability and access and create more high throughput locations. In addition to locations already started, another high-throughput site in Northwest Washington will be added the week of January 18. 

More details on that can be expected from DOH shortly.

Free Masks

The state intends to release about 10 million masks of different varieties from our state supply for distribution into local communities, including K-12 schools, in the coming weeks. 

Local and state emergency management distribution channels will be used, as well as local health departments and our K-12 infrastructure to make these available quickly for those who wish to use them.

Intention to have schools remain open

The governor also talked about his strong desire to keep students in classroom learning.

“Students have lost too much already during this pandemic. Over the coming months, some classrooms may have to close. We will have to soldier through some frustrations, and I believe we will do that successfully,” Inslee said. “That is why we are focused heavily on making sure tests, masks, and vaccines are readily available for our school staff and students. I would also like to reiterate my gratitude for how educators have handled and are still managing the challenges created by the pandemic. You all have made it possible for students to successfully return safely and we want them to stay there.”

Watch the governor’s full press conference.