Your grandma gets a test! Your grandma gets a test!
Your grandma gets a test! Your grandma gets a test! JOHN MOORE / GETTY IMAGES

There are COVID-19 outbreaks in food processing plants and packaging houses across Washington state. Fruit packing workers across Yakima are currently striking, asking for hazard pay increases and more training for supervisors, that, as Gov. Jay Inslee said in a press conference, "more needs to be done."

"We hear that message," Inslee said.

Inslee announced new safety measures for the agriculture industry in Washington that will be effective immediately. He also announced coronavirus testing goals for longterm care facilities across the state.

The biggest change for workers will be that they will have to work in cohorts of no more than 15 people. If the workers share housing, they will share housing with those same people, if they take employer-provided transportation from worksite to worksite, they will take transportation with those people, and so on and so forth. That way workers are "only exposed to a smaller group of people that can reside and travel and work together."

Additionally, employers are now required to provide face coverings for workers, more handwashing stations will be placed in facilities, transportation will need to be regularly cleaned, and workers will get training on how to report any violations and what to do if they are quarantined or if they fall ill.

As for the longterm care facilities, Inslee announced that all longterm care facility residents and staff will have to be tested by June 12. The state will also mandate that memory-care units get tested by June 26 since "we do find higher infections in those [facilities]," Secretary of Health John Wiesman said, "because folks with memory care issues tend to wander and need to be able to move around as part of their daily living."

Earlier this month, when Inslee announced the plan to test all longterm care residents and staff, there was one big issue: testing. According to Dr. James Lewis, clinical lead on health care systems support for Public Health Seattle King County, it would take around 80,000 tests a week to routinely test all staff and patients.

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According to Wiesman, the state now has "the testing supplies and personal protection equipment to carry out this mission."

The importance of this kind of testing is to understand the percentage of people who have COVID-19 in these facilities, and that information "will help us understand how much infection there is and the potential for spread," Wiesman said. A big concern is asymptomatic transmissions. "We’re identifying people [with COVID-19] who aren’t necessarily showing symptoms," Wiesman said.

Inslee confirmed that "a higher percentage of transmissions are from asymptomatic transmissions" and "there is a need for broad-scale testing." Thanks to evolving science and a supply of "several hundred thousand swabs from the federal government that were delivered in the last few days," that now seems possible, Inslee said.

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