Acknowledging that the fight against COVID-19 remains far from over, during a press conference on Monday Gov. Jay Inslee rolled out new guidance allowing dentists and doctors to open up their offices and offer "non-urgent" care to patients in Washington.
Inslee said each health care or dental provider will need to meet certain criteria to perform non-urgent procedures. He laid out that criteria—which involves certain personal protective equipment standards, limiting the number of people in waiting rooms, and instituting "temperature checks"—in a three-phase model that hasn't hit my inbox yet. (I'll update when I see it.) Providers who can't meet the criteria are "just going to delay" opening until they can satisfy the requirements, Inslee said.
Bill Robertson, President and CEO of MutliCare and Sally Watkins, director of Washington State Nurses Association, worked with the governor's office on the guidelines. "We have successfully moderated the impact of the disease," Robertson said, pointing to the state's good hospital capacity numbers.
Restrictions on elective surgeries and dental services have been in place since March 19.
Inslee said he'll decide to lift or extend the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order "days" before the May 31 expiration.
Allowing more people to return to work during the pandemic will depend largely on the state's ability to stand up a "very strong" testing, contact tracing, and isolation program, Inslee added for the umpteenth time, expressing no small amount of exasperation with people who claim he doesn't have a "plan" for reopening, and with the President for essentially thwarting that plan.
"We have a plan, we just don't have the swabs," Inslee said. "When I heard Donald Trump say that testing was overrated, I about went through the roof! Our ability to open up depends on testing."
Inslee called recent efforts to obtain necessary testing supplies from the federal government "more than maddening."
Over the weekend, the Seattle Times reported that the state received what looked like 22,000 loose Q-Tips "packed into the scores of mislabeled boxes," not the specialized swabs needed to conduct COVID-19 tests. After asking the White House coronavirus task force what the hell they were supposed to do with all these loose swabs, a representative for the task force sent a memo "explaining the swabs actually were produced specifically for nasal specimen collection," even though they just looked like random boxes of commercial products. Since the swabs weren't wrapped in plastic, the state now has to test them "to avoid contamination."
So far the U.S. Health and Human Services Department has only sent "roughly 10%" of the supplies they promised to send us by the end of the month, according to the Times.