Just under way in Olympia – delayed from the originally announced start time – Gov. Inslee‘s media briefing. The preview says he will be joined by Vice Admiral Dr. Raquel Bono, director of Washington state COVID-19 health-care response; Kathy Lofy, state health officer; and Katherine Guest, deputy intelligence section chief for the Washington State Emergency Operations Center. Notes as it goes.
He opens by saying he’ll re-start non-urgent surgeries.
Then he says the stay-home order will be extended beyond May 4th and that he will have more details on Friday, about the “phases” of reopening. He says it’s important to not have to open, then close again – “let’s do this once.” He says they’re making decisions based on “5 buckets of metrics,” each of which in turn has “multiple buckets …beneath it. …There is no one number that is a magic number.”
First: Disease activity, including case count. It’s “showing some progress, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Next, death count, based on when the victim got sick.
Third, COVID-19 hospitalizations based on when the patient was admitted.
Fourth, COVID-19 hospitalizations based on when the patient got sick.
Fifth, the “R-0” number – how many more people get sick, from each person infected. They only have this number for King County, not statewide, but it’s dropped from 4 to 1. He says epidemiologists warn that if social distancing is removed, that will go back up.
He then shows projections (modeling), saying that removing distancing would result in many more deaths.
3:09 PM: Then he reiterates that more testing is needed, but “our testing capacity has been sorely taxed.” The labs around the state could run a total of 22,000+ tests a day – but only currently has supplies for 4,000+ per day.
Once there is a “vigorous” testing program, contact tracing is vital, and that “involves an army of people,” the governor said. 565 people are working on that now and they’re hoping to almost triple that to 1,500 within abaut two weeks; the National Guard is contributing about 700 people to the effort.
Yet more data they’re monitoring – long-term-care facilities, and demographic inequity.
Finally, the health-care system’s readiness is the “last bucket” he says there’s still a “healthy” capacity and that needs to be maintained “because this virus could explode.”
3:24 PM: First question – what’s a reasonable testing goal in the near term? The governor says he thinks the 20,000 “is necessary to give us high confidence” for moving to the “next phase” of reopening. He says the feds have assured him that enough swabs to do it are on the way, “though we’ve run into some glitches in the past.”
He’s also asked for specific numbers he’d like to see in some of those “buckets” of data. He mentions a combination of very low levels of multiple numbers – cases, hospitalizations – and health officer Lofy says combining some low numbers with a high number of tests would be a different story than those numbers without more testing.
So is it possible we’d never get to the preferred numbers? he’s asked. Inslee says he’s confident people are supportive of continuing to work toward it and acknowleddges “it’s a big challenge.”
3:38 PM: He’s asked about the value of the Western States Pact if other states in it are making different decisions. He says the pact is more for “communication.”
He’s also asked why he is allowing people to resume outdoor recreation showing “common sense” when he won’t allow businesses to reopen in that same spirit. He doesn’t really answer, saying it’s important to “reduce interactions.”
Last question – what kind of R-0 number is he looking for? Significantly below 1, he said.
He wraps at 3:54, reiterating that on Friday he will talk about how the decisionmaking will play iinto “the next phase of business reopening.” The video should be available for playback above shortly, and we’ll add links to the governor’s news release(s) on all of the above when available.