Rep. Pollet notes life-and-death nature of coronavirus crisis

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Rep. Gerry Pollet D-46

By Evan Smith

State Rep. Gerry Pollet has altered his annual legislative session recap because of the coronavirus epidemic.

“With the COVID 19 pandemic and our State under a stay-at-home order, I have not felt it is appropriate to do a traditional post-session legislative recap,” he said Friday. 
“Instead, I have prepared this piece for constituents and others to understand why the stay-at-home orders, including yesterday's extension, was absolutely necessary.” 
He sent this report:

Prioritizing Public Health
By Rep. Gerry Pollet, 46th Legislative District

Washington state continues to have life-and-death public-health-policy choices to make. As a legislator and faculty member at the UW School of Public Health, I continue to help the public and our state decision makers understand policy choices from COVID-19 modeling.

Those models strongly supported Gov. Inslee’s “Stay-Home, Stay-Safe” order and its extension through May 4.

To avoid overwhelming our health care system by April 1, Washington needed to:
  • Adopt mandatory measures to prevent social interaction
  • Increase testing
  • Quarantine people who have had contact with those who may be infected
  • Increase hospital capacity

One model predicted 116,000 deaths and a peak of 157,000 hospitalizations if we hadn’t taken action.

Washington hospital capacity as of March 15:
  • Fewer than 12,000 total hospital beds.
  • Under 1,500 critical care beds.

Without critical care beds and PPE, the number of people who die from COVID 19 goes up dramatically. This is why the federal government’s failure to work on ventilator manufacturing and distribution is so disturbing.

Here’s what that model for how the case load would have overwhelmed Washington’s hospital capacity looked like around March 20 if we had not acted:



Here is what one of the most respected modeling efforts in the world showed for the impacts of various policy choices for the US:


The solid line at approximately 10/100,000 population is our nation’s total critical care bed capacity with emergency surge beds added. Source: Imperial College, March 16, 2020.

That is why canceling elective surgeries was essential. For those of you, like my neighbor, living with pain from missing a scheduled surgery: thank you for your sacrifice.

Of course, this data was available to the President, and was well known by CDC, FEMA, and others while the nation was being told that it would disappear.

We are now trying to develop surge capacity for our health-care system. This crisis has shown the tremendous shortage of health-care professionals in Washington, and the impact of having stripped the “foundational” funding from public-health agencies. 

I have been working on both issues for several years, including grant support for students going into health-care-shortage areas, expanding capacity ranging from community college nursing programs through post-graduate physician assistant, and medical school programs.

To fund “foundational public health,” I sponsored our State’s first e-cigarette and vaping products tax in 2019. This tax revenue was dedicated to cessation, prevention and foundational public health.

The vaping and tobacco industry (big tobacco also owns big vaping) responded with over $140,000 in campaign contributions to legislators and legislative campaign committees immediately after last year’s session. 
Sadly, their legislative allies stopped us from continuing the ban on flavored vaping products, banning new disposable e-cigarette products, and taxing new e-cigarette products to fund public health.

I continue work to support public health, including training health professionals and eliminating the threat to an entire new generation being addicted to e-cigarettes and vaping. 

Removing lead from our children’s school water is also among my continuing public health efforts. The House unanimously passed my bill to set a health based standard and take action. Next year, we will ensure the Senate also acts.

First in Nation Legislation to End Sexual Harassment “Pass the Harasser” at Colleges:

Students deserve protection from faculty, coaches or administrators who are serial sexual harassers or predators. For a year, I worked to bring together our state’s universities, sexual-assault survivor advocates, faculty groups and others to develop the nation’s first state-legislation to end the common practice of “pass the harasser;” allowing a faculty, coach or administrator who has committed sexual assault or harassment to “move on” to another college without the second institution learning of the findings.

HB 2327 will ensure that schools in our State will know if an applicant has a history of sexual harassment or assault. 
Our state’s schools will be the first in the nation required to disclose such findings about anyone who was employed at a Washington school to any other higher education institution. 
We will also be the first to bar non-disclosure agreements used to keep these cases secret.

As one of our State’s commissioners on the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, I will be working to have other state’s university systems and legislators agree to join in ending “pass the harasser.”

Pollet represents the 46th Legislative District, including Lake Forest Park, northeast and north Seattle, and Kenmore.

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com



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