2:33 PM: For the second consecutive day, Gov. Inslee is having a mid-afternoon media briefing, this time described as “an update on the state’s long-term-care COVID-19 testing plan and farmworker protections.” But with three days left in the stay-home order, that’s likely to come up in Q&A at the very least, so we’ll be adding notes as it happens.
The agricultural topic is first, and he notes that 100,000 people work in that industry in our state; he’s issuing a “proclamation with clear guidelines” for both employers and workers. He makes note that workers are striking in Yakima. He and Labor & Industries director Joel Sacks mention a few points of the new rules, including access to face coverings and more handwashing stations.
2:45 PM: Erik Nicholson of the United Farm Workers is also speaking, detailing workers’ concerns and how they’re being addressed by the new rules. He says that the governor’s action reinforces the essential nature of farm work. … The governor then moves on to the long-term-care topic. He notes that his 103-year-old grandmother is in a facility. The state is issuing an order to broaden testing requirements in LTC and assisted-living facilities. All residents and staff must be tested by June 12th, except memory-care facilities have an extra two weeks – if they haven’t been tested recently. The state will send the facilities test kits and PPE, Inslee says, and will pay the lab costs for staff (for residents, he expects that insurance will cover the cost).
2:55 PM: Secretary of Health John Wiesman is elaborating on this. He notes that they’ve continued to see a decline in outbreaks at these facilities. He says it will enable them in particular to focus on facilities that haven’t had outbreaks, to be sure no one is infected but asymptomatic.
3:01 PM: On to Q&A. First one is about penalties for violating the new farmworker-protection rules. The governor stresses that while “sanctions are available,” he expects that won’t be needed as the “vast majority” of businesspeople are complying. … Second question notes that a judge is expected to rule Monday on the governor’s stay-home order; the governor says the filing of a lawsuit is not affecting his decisionmaking, but that aside, “We believe we’re on very firm ground” as he acted on an obligation “to save people’s lives.” … Next question, Snohomish County wants to seek a variance despite not meeting the current requirements, any comment on that? The governor says he’s been talking with people there but as for what’s next, he’ll have decisions “in the days ahead” about “what happens June 1” … He also says the state’s been getting testing supplies that will allow that to be ramped up. … Is the farmworker announcement too little too late? He says, “We’re making decisions on an hourly basis with huge ramifications on people’s lives.” … In response to another question, he says he’s looking into whether the state can create a relief fund for undocumented workers without legslation … Does the Employment Security department director still have his full confidence? Yes, he said, noting that the department has recovered $300 million. … What about the ongoing reports that some deaths counted as COVID were not? The governor says even with that, it could still be higher than reported, but to some degree the specific number is irrelevant – “hundreds of deaths …is a pandemic.” He also criticizes politicians (without naming them) who have claimed the pandemic was “a hoax” and/or going to end quickly. And he goes on to say masks can be very effective so it’s dangerous when “leaders …and I can think of at least one” deride them. Other questions from there focused on the protections for farmworkers and how those will be monitored/enforced. … Last questions include, what’s to keep people from Phase 1 counties in central Puget Sound “flooding” nearby counties that have been allowed into Phase 2? The governor says that hasn’t been seen yet and they’re hoping it won’t.
In closing, he says that “masking requirements” will be an increasing component of strategy to keep the virus from spreading even as things open up. Wearing one is a sign of your love for your community, he stresses. He wraps at 3:37 pm.