Dear friends and neighbors,
With our state experiencing a growing COVID-19 outbreak and our first confirmed cases in the 41st Legislative District, we want to make sure you are aware of the proactive steps our communities are taking to lessen the spread of the virus. Two of these steps are focused on high-risk populations: our kids and elders. Many schools have already decided to temporarily close and nursing homes have been required to follow new rules to protect older adults.
As a reminder, this virus is new, but our response to it is not. We will weather this storm together as long as we continue to lead with care and compassion. A virus doesn’t discriminate, and neither should we. In times of disease outbreak, stigmas can be attached to specific communities or people. If you see harassment, speak up and help us combat stigmatizing these communities. People experiencing sickness deserve our support, not prejudice. This pandemic will pass and our communities will emerge stronger because of the ways in which we have supported each other.
At two press conferences this week, Governor Jay Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced that all schools in the state of Washington are required to close from March 17 to April 24 in response to COVID-19 concerns. This emergency order will apply to all public and private K-12 schools in the state.
This decision was considered with the utmost care after consultation with public health authorities, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and county executives. Health officials have advised that school closures can significantly mitigate the number of cases and slow the transmission of COVID-19. While students are at low risk for infection, we must consider their elderly or vulnerable family members whose health may be jeopardized.
We know many students and families rely on critical school services, and we expect districts to actively develop plans to accommodate nutrition, child care, and students experiencing homelessness. We also expect districts to work with their communities to ensure that staff compensation and school planning do not falter.
Here are a few updates we can share now. The situation is rapidly evolving, and this information may change.
- Inslee has directed districts to provide free childcare for children of medical professionals or first responders.
- Make-up school days after June 19 will be waived.
- The Legislature passed a law to grant local flexibility for graduation requirements due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.
- OSPI has more information about school meals during closure here.
- All state testing for the 2019-2020 school year has been canceled.
Students and staff should continue to follow public health protocols, including staying home when sick, washing hand regularly, and frequently sanitizing surfaces. OSPI will continue to be your best resource for updated information. Check their website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
Nursing home precautions
The risk of severe illness appears to be higher in people 60 years and older. It is critical that we take the utmost precautions to protect our elderly populations. Governor Inslee issued the following rules on Tuesday for nursing homes and assisted living facilities and on Friday for adult family homes:
- Visitors must be adults and the visit must take place in the resident’s room. This does not apply to end-of-life situations.
- All visitors must follow COVID-19 screening and follow reasonable precautionary measures. Precautionary measures include, but are not limited to, wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, or visiting in designated locations.
- All visitors must sign into a visitor’s log. Owners and operators must retain that log for 30 days.
- Employees or volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift.
- People who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and who test positive for COVID-19 must be isolated away from other people.
- Owners, operators, staff and volunteers are prohibited from disclosing protected and confidential health information, except as otherwise provided by law or with the resident’s consent.
These rules remain in effect until midnight on April 9, 2020.
Again, we remind everyone to act with care and compassion as the evolving situation unfolds. Our gratitude goes out to the healthcare workers who are fighting tirelessly to keep our communities healthy.
Your Representatives in Olympia,
Representative Tana Senn Representative My-Linh Thai