(The Center Square) – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced new plans in the state’s fight against coronavirus, including more masks, increased testing and greater vaccination access.
“We are seeing more COVID cases now than at any point during the entire pandemic and our hospitalizations are near the peak of Delta,” he said at a recent press conference. “Omicron is more contagious, and more people will likely get sick. We are providing additional tools and resources to help protect Washingtonians.”
Due to the spike in hospitalizations, the Washington State Medical Association on Thursday sent Inslee a letter asking him to declare a state of emergency.
“The time has come to officially make the call; we are in a state of crisis,” the letter says. “As physicians, we know when we can do no more for our patients, and that time is now. We are effectively operating crisis capacity strategies throughout our health care system. Our emergency departments are overrun, our hospitals are full. We are emotionally and physically exhausted.”
The Washington State Hospital Association reported at a briefing Thursday that the past week saw an average of 1,248 COVID patients hospitalized each day. That is up from a seven-day average of 664 a month ago.
Statistics from the Washington State Department of Health show 135 patients required a ventilator as of Wednesday, up from 90 in late December.
To help ease the strain on hospitals, Inslee said the state is ordering 5.5 million at-home test kits. The bulk of those tests will be delivered free of charge by Amazon, with 1 million going to schools and another 1 million to local health departments for use in long term care facilities, homeless shelters and other community organizations.
On online portal through the DOH is expected to have information soon about how people can register to receive the tests at home.
King County is also set to begin distributing 300,000 at-home tests next week.
A mobile vaccination site operated by FEMA in Auburn, southeast of Seattle, has increased capacity from 500 shots a day to 1,500, and Inslee said the DOH will announce plans soon for another high-throughput site in northwest Washington to open the week of Jan. 17.
Currently, 78% of the state’s population ages 5 and up have received at least one dose and 71% are fully vaccinated.
Inslee also said the state will distribute 10 million masks of different varieties to schools and local health departments.