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March 23, 2020

WSMA Supports Gov. Inslee's "Stay Home and Stay Healthy" Order in Response to COVID-19

SEATTLE - The Washington State Medical Association, representing physicians and physician assistants across the state - many of whom are serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic - supports Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee's action today mandating the closure of non-essential businesses and ordering Washington residents to stay at home and avoid any unnecessary travel. The policy strengthens the state's current COVID-19 emergency response by requiring all Washingtonians to "stay home and stay healthy" unless pursuing an "essential need."

"We do not currently have the capability to test and isolate those infected with the virus, so we must do all that we can to blunt the curve," says William K. Hirota, MD, president of the association. "The data and modeling are clear and we are learning from the experience of South Korea and China, and we must act now to minimize the damage. We thank the governor for taking this courageous step and we join him in urging the public to listen."

Given the virus' contagiousness during a protracted incubation period—and dramatic undertesting, which has crippled public health's ability to trace and contain infections—experts agree that the next few weeks and months will see a steady rise of patients presenting at ICUs and EDs with severe COVID-19 illness. The influx of COVID-19 patients threatens to overwhelm Washington state's hospitals and emergency responders, which has led to increasingly stronger pronouncements by the governor and public health leaders urging Washingtonians to stay home and help to slow the virus' transmission.

"We recognize the once-in-a-lifetime challenge this is for everybody, health care workers and public alike," added Dr. Hirota. "There will be economic fallout for all of society, but our initial efforts should be to keep our health care system intact and capable of handling the surge to come. We also need to protect the health of our doctors, nurses, and first responders"

Washington state also faces a severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE)—critical protection for emergency care and frontline health care personnel during the pandemic, and also for physician practices and clinics throughout the state, whose ability to screen and treat potential COVID-19 patients will be crucial in alleviating pressure on our state's hospitals.

"This really is a perfect storm—we're facing a shortage of PPE, testing, ventilators in ICUs to help with respiratory illness, even health care workers, as more of our colleagues fall ill or test positive," says Nathan Schlicher, MD, JD, president-elect of the association and an emergency medicine physician with Team Health/CHI Franciscan. "It's radically impacting health care and it's severely altering the lives of our patients, who are facing major disruption in their lives. We are truly all in this together. The governor's announcement today was the right step—and we're looking forward to working with him and our public health leaders on the next steps: getting PPE out to our clinics, expansion of COVID testing, and strategies to address the social determinants of health, including the viability of the health system as a whole, just to name a few."

For more information, contact:

Cindy Sharpe
813.244.2883 (office/mobile)

Graham Short
206.956.3633 (cell/text)

About the WSMA

The Washington State Medical Association represents more than 11,000 physicians, physician assistants, resident physicians and medical students in Washington state. The WSMA has advocated on behalf of the house of medicine more than 125 years. Our vision is to make Washington state the best place to practice medicine and receive care.

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