Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Washington state is experiencing an increase in cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and it is anticipated that the virus will continue to spread. Sadly, there have been several deaths. However, I want to make sure you have the facts and understand the basics on how to stay healthy.
Health officials are working rapidly to identify and test people who may have been exposed. Public health officials in our state have experience responding to pandemics and are working with state and county health officials to share information, deploy resources, and respond at maximum capacity.
Risk of exposure is elevated for healthcare workers, people who have had close contact with persons with COVID-19, and travelers returning from affected international locations (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Hong Kong).
Here are some recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Whatcom County Health Department on how to respond in your daily life:
- Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
- Try to avoid shaking hands for now.
- Stay home when you're sick.
- If you are sick and wondering what to do, call your healthcare provider before you go to a clinic or emergency room.
- Show compassion and support for individuals and communities most closely impacted. The same for anyone who might be sick.
If you have questions, you can call the Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
You can also stay up to date by following them online at the various websites and social media channels below:
Department of Health: How Can I be Prepared?
Whatcom County Health Department: whatcomcounty.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1617
What we are doing in the Legislature
In the Legislature, we introduced House Bill 2965, a bipartisan bill, to provide $100 million to state agencies and local governments so they have the necessary funding to respond to the COVID-19. It will also give the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) funding to increase nursing staff to help address this growing need.
We unanimously passed this legislation yesterday (Tuesday). Since this money is coming out of the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) or Rainy Day Fund, and it is a large amount, we placed some accountability measures into the legislation to ensure the money is being used as intended.
- The appropriation from the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) does not alter the four-year balanced budget requirement in the ensuing fiscal biennium.
- The Office of Financial Management must provide monthly updates to the legislative health care and fiscal committees on the expenditures of the $100 million appropriated for the coronavirus outbreak and response.
- The dollars may not be used to supplant existing state, federal, or local spending for coronavirus response.
- State agencies and local governments must demonstrate maximum use of federal resources before seeking funds from the appropriation, and reimbursement from federal sources must be repaid to the BSA.
- Any unspent amounts must be transferred back to the BSA at the close of the fiscal biennium.
We are all in this together. Please make sure to follow the DOH recommendations to keep yourself healthy and keep updated on the latest information via the links I provided. Do not hesitate to contact DOH if you have any questions or concerns.
If I can be of any assistance please let me know. It is an honor to serve the 42nd Legislative District.
Luanne Van Werven