Washington receives 8,000 additional COVID-19 test kits but personal protective supplies are still too low

Friday, March 20, 2020

In response to requests for more COVID-19 testing from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services delivered 8,000 additional sample collection test kits on Thursday, along with supplies of the protective equipment needed to conduct the tests. 

The Washington State Department of Health is working to distribute the new supplies to local health agencies in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties – the areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus thus far.
These additional test kits are intended to increase capacity for testing of high-risk populations, including elderly people, those with pre-existing conditions, and the health care providers and first responders who are caring for others during this crisis.
FEMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services plan to provide additional test kits and related equipment to Washington state as these materials become available.
Even with these new federal resources, limited testing supplies continue to be a significant issue for the COVID-19 response. 

Gov. Inslee announced new restrictions this week on non-urgent medical and dental procedures so the state can make sure Washington health care workers have enough protective equipment to wear as they work the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s order applies to any non-urgent procedure that requires medical professionals to wear personal protective equipment.

This impacts all hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, and dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices in Washington. The governor’s proclamation makes clear that this restriction does not apply to treatment for patients with emergency and urgent needs.

There are exceptions. For example, doctors can perform an elective surgery if delaying the surgery would cause harm to the patient within the next three months.

“We know the health care personal protective equipment supply chain in Washington has been severely disrupted by the significant increased use of such equipment worldwide,” Inslee said. “We will do all we can to protect the women and men who protect us.”

Banned procedures include (but are not limited to):
  • most joint replacements
  • most cataract and lens surgeries
  • non-urgent cardiac procedures
  • cosmetic procedures
  • some endoscopy
  • some interventional radiology services

This order does not apply to patients with heart attacks, strokes or motor vehicle accidents. Hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers may perform surgery as long as a delay or cancellation would worsen the patient’s condition. For example, the prohibition would not apply to a patient who needs a serious cancerous tumor removed, or a patient who needs their dentist to relieve pain or manage an infection.

Inslee encourages ambulatory surgery centers to work with their local hospitals and assist with surge capacity needs.

“We’ve come together to make intense sacrifices over the past week or two,” Inslee said. “And I thank all of you for what you’re doing. Today’s crucial announcement is another way we can protect the health of our communities and families, and slow the spread of this virus so our health care systems have a fighting chance to catch up and continue keeping us healthy.”


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