Vice President Mike Pence addresses the coronavirus outbreak situation in Washington after meeting with Governor Jay Inslee and public health officials at Camp Murray. Photo by Cameron Sheppard/WNPA News Bureau

Vice President Mike Pence addresses the coronavirus outbreak situation in Washington after meeting with Governor Jay Inslee and public health officials at Camp Murray. Photo by Cameron Sheppard/WNPA News Bureau

Vice President arrives with federal health experts to ‘epicenter’ of U.S. coronavirus outbreak

“We’re all in this together,” Mike Pence told Washington state officials.

By Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service

On the day Washington state recorded its 11th death from the COVID-19 virus, Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Pierce County to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee and state health officials.

After his Thursday (March 5) meeting with the governor and public health officials, Pence announced that Congress has approved $8.3 billion in funding to respond to and slow the spread of coronavirus nationwide. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill on Friday.

Pence said the approved funding includes not only money for federal agencies, but also resources for state and local efforts to fight the outbreak.

Pence said the bill will also provide research funding to develop therapeutic drugs for those infected as well as an eventual vaccine, which he estimated could take more than a year and a half before being tested and approved.

Inslee said his discussion with the vice president included talks of increasing testing capacity, increasing hospital and clinic capacity as well as worker compensation for those who cannot work because of their infection.

John Wiesman, secretary of Washington’s Department of Health, reported Thursday that there are now 70 known cases of COVID-19 infections in Washington state, up from 39 known cases the day before.

The bulk of the infections have been discovered in King and Snohomish counties, but Wiesman said there is now one confirmed case in Grant County. The Grant County Health District confirmed that a person in critical condition has tested positive for the virus.

According to reports from the Snohomish and King county health departments, the deaths occurred in people who were elderly or had underlying health conditions — a group Wiesman said is the most vulnerable population.

Pence said the majority of people who have contracted the virus are recovering and doing well.

Earlier this week, Wiesman briefed the Senate Ways and Means Committee regarding the outbreak in the state. Wiesman requested $100 million from the Legislature in order to respond to and slow down the spread of the outbreak.

Facing end-of-session deadlines, the Legislature scrambled to unanimously approve $100 million from the state’s rainy day fund to address the outbreak.

Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, whose district includes the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland — the site of a deadly outbreak that affected residents and staff members — said at the state level, all the Legislature can do is allocate resources for local and state agencies.

Springer said he lives near Life Care Center in Kirkland and said the local response has been “as good as it could be.”

Springer said about two dozen firefighters in his district are quarantined after responding to calls that put them in close proximity to patients infected with the virus. He said this will require additional funding and resources as first responders and medical practitioners continue to put themselves on the frontlines of the outbreak.

King County reported this week it intends to purchase a Econo Lodge motel in Kent to serve as a quarantine facility in preparation for a potential surge of infections.

Wiesman said earlier this week that two mobile homes are being rented to be used as mobile quarantine spaces.

As public anxiety grows around the state, residents who fear they are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus have turned to Twitter to express their frustrations with the lack of available testing in the state.

“Testing kits are limited still so health professionals have established a criteria themselves about who is eligible for testing,” Inslee said Thursday.

Inslee said the priority for testing is for elderly people or those with underlying health conditions who are displaying symptoms.

Wiesman said Thursday that the University of Washington School of Medicine now has the testing capacity for 750 to 1,000 people a day.

State insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler announced Thursday that people tested for the COVID-19 virus will not have to pay insurance co-pays or deductibles on the tests, and said people who are uninsured will not have to pay either.

Inslee said that based on advice he has received from medical experts, the vast majority of people who contract the virus will only experience mild symptoms if none at all, but the concern is that individuals who are infected may unknowingly pass the virus to someone who is vulnerable.

Inslee encouraged individuals to consider avoiding large gatherings of people and to not go to work if they are feeling sick.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Free masks at the Bellevue Salvation Army. Courtesy photo
Free mask pickup for Bellevue residents

New dates and times for mask distribution this week

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Construction begins for Downtown Park entrance

The previously delayed entryway project is expected to be finished early 2021

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline. Courtesy image
Drug courts, officer de-escalation programs impacted by MIDD cuts

The fund provides money for mental illness and drug dependency programs across King County.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Governor Jay Inslee smiles and laughs Sept. 3, 2019, during a speech at the Lynnwood Link Extension groundbreaking in Lynnwood. A Thurston County judge ruled he exceeded his authority when he vetoed single sentences in the state transportation budget in 2019. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
Judge invalidates Gov. Inslee’s veto in roads budget

Lawmakers said the governor crossed a constitutional line.

Most Read