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Gov. Inslee hopes to expand PPE stockpile, launches #WearAMaskWA

Gov. Inslee provided an update on the state's COVID-19 response on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (TVW Screengrab)

Gov. Inslee said Wednesday that personal protective equipment (PPE) has been all but impossible to obtain during the state’s COVID-19 response.

“We know that Washingtonians need economic recovery, and to do that we have to have adequate PPE,” Inslee said.

A major supplier has now received certification for N95 masks that were previously on order. Inslee said the state has 5 million N95 masks in hand, and an additional 50 million on order.

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Entities that need PPE and qualify for assistance may submit requests to local emergency authorities in their county, who will then pass the request for equipment to the state. Eligible entities include homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, hospitals, first responders, child care facilities, and congregate settings where there’s been a positive case.

“In recent weeks, for the first time, we were able to fulfill nearly all the requests for all of these items,” Inslee said.

The state is still trying to build and expand in-state networks for these systems to increase the stock and number of available supplies. Manufactures and companies in the state have stepped up to help, and many are already producing hand sanitizer and PPE.

Having an adequate supply of PPE is important as businesses reopen. Employers are and should be required to keep workers safe, but Inslee has said that a lack of PPE has been a challenge.

Unfortunately, as Inslee has expressed previously and mentioned again Wednesday, there has been minimal help from the federal government. He says the Trump administration “has remained unable and unwilling” to develop a national base or stockpile.

Gov. Inslee has renewed his request to the Vice President to use the Defense Production Act to meet the scale of need across the United States for PPE. While the federal government has sent some PPE, Inslee said much of it was not acceptable for use and there was not enough sent to meet the needs. States have had to compete against each other for supplies without help from the federal government.

The governor said Washington state has received 4 million items from the federal stockpile, but already received 20 times that amount — nearly 80 million — through the state’s own efforts.

In the letter to the Vice President, Inslee is asking the administration to: use the Defense Production Act to increase PPE supply, provide guidance for workers across sectors in reopening, help employers reconfigure businesses, and to replenish and expand the stock pile.

“These challenges we face are significant, but they are not insurmountable,” Inslee said.

The federal government’s authority is necessary in order to protect people and employees as more of us return to work and businesses reopen, Inslee said. Additionally, the need to build a stockpile nationally and have access to that stockpile quickly is critical as the United States continues to fight COVID-19.

What’s allowed as counties reopen under Gov. Inslee’s ‘Safe Start’ phases

To help protect each other from the spread of the virus, one of the easiest things to do is wear a mask or face cloth covering when in public spaces. Many counties in Washington state have issued directives encouraging residents to wear masks, but Inslee has now launched the #WearAMaskWA initiative in an effort to expand the number of people who are wearing masks and slowing the spread of this virus.

The more we wear masks in public, the more we can protect the health of our neighbors and reopen our businesses, Inslee said. Individual actions can help lead to a reopening of the economy.

Under the initiative, people are asked to send in videos explaining why you wear a mask, whether it’s to protect your mom, your neighbors, or to get back to work sooner.

“We hope that your creativity will become apparent so that we can help jump start this effort,” Inslee said.

Wearing a mask is a simple action we can take, but Inslee says it’s critical.

“We have a lot of people … using masks today in the state of Washington, but it is not completely uniform,” he said.

Some of the counties and areas most in danger and seeing continued spread are some of the same places where mask use is not as consistent.

“This is under our control,” Inslee said. “We can control our destiny, and [wearing a mask is] a really good way to do it.”

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