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State boosts program to help people with COVID

In this April 5, 2020, file photo rows of patient beds are shown at a military field hospital at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle in April. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

The Washington Department of Health announced the expansion of a new program Wednesday, providing assistance to people who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or need to isolate at home after being exposed to the virus.

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Known as Care Connect Washington, it functions in tandem with local health authorities to hand out “critical” services like delivery of food kits and medication, assistance with applying for unemployment, and connections with local housing agencies, food banks, and child care providers.

The idea is to provide enough of those services to ensure that people complete the requisite quarantine period after testing positive or being exposed to COVID.

“People who receive help meeting essential social and health needs are more likely to complete home isolation and quarantine successfully,” Deputy Secretary of Health for COVID-19 Response Lacy Fehrenbach said in a news release. “Care Connect Washington will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help families get through what could be a hard time by making sure they have what they need.”

Once the requisite isolation and/or quarantine period ends, Care Connect then provides further aid to provide “longer-term local services to support ongoing health and social needs.”

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The program first debuted for Yakima County residents on July 1, before expanding to Benton and Franklin counties. Clark, Klickitat, Skamania, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Pacific, Grays Harbor, Mason, Thurston, and Lewis counties were added Wednesday.

The expansion of Care Connect was made possible by separating counties into a pair of regional hubs, spanning 11 partner agencies and 50 care coordinators. The DOH expects to continue building the program through Jan. 1, 2021.

Funding for the program came from federal COVID-19 relief dollars distributed by the CARES Act.

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