5 Things Washington: COVID-19, Retirements in the Legislature, Sue Birch

We are in the opening days of a long period of staying at home, likely months rather than weeks. Take this more seriously than you think you need to. There is no upside to do otherwise at this point. Washington’s confirmed cases are still doubling about every 7 days, rather than the projected 5-6. So, we are better, but we are not well.

Read poetry. Binge watch shows. Try some stretching. Cuddle a little longer. Appreciate the people demanding your attention. Find meaning and purpose where you didn’t look before.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. COVID-19 update

Washington state has nearly 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – more than doubling the number of cases and deaths in the state compared to one week ago. Gov. Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order announced Monday night was something he appeared to try to forestall as long as possible, but became necessary as some residents refused to self-quarantine and as communities like EdmondsYakima and Everett issued their own orders over the weekend.

Despite the scary and unprecedented news we hear everyday, Washington State has been a leader in innovative solutions. UW has been a leader in testing since the virus first began to spread in the US, and last week, researchers in Seattle began the nation’s first clinical study of an investigational COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to 2018 legislation, Washington has also activated emergency volunteer health practitioners to help meet the state’s workforce demands, and last week the state became one of the first in the country to receive approval from CMS for its 1135 waiver requests.

2. Coronavirus GoFundMe campaigns

As COVID-19 continues to spread in Washington, community-members have organized a series of GoFundMe campaigns to support local hospital staff working around the clock to treat and test patients. Among those campaigns is this one which has raised nearly $70,000 to deliver meals to Puget Sound hospital staff, and this one which is raising money to deliver 1,600 meals to UW hospital staff per day.

This campaign, organized by Northwest Fit Meals, is helping feed staff at Harborview, Evergreen, and Providence, and this one is fundraising for supplies to sew protective masks for health care workers.

If you’re able, now is the time to support the health care workers that are on the front lines of this unprecedented event. Your support will also help local businesses keep people at work and the lights on. We’re in this together, after all.


3. Changes to state government

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib announced a shakeup in state government last week when he announced he will not seek re-election this fall and will instead enter the Jesuit priesthood. This follows what he called “two years of careful and prayerful discernment.” Sen. Steve Hobbs immediately announced his candidacy, bringing $215k in surplus funds to the race. He has a compelling Republican challenger, Ann Davison Sattler, but who only raised $13k in her first six weeks in the race.

Also, as of now, 15 Washington State legislators are either retiring or running for another public office. Seven House Democrats will be leaving their caucus while Hobbs is the only potential outgoing Democratic senator, should he win his race. Republicans will see four House members depart in 2021 along with three senators. All in all, it breaks down to a near even split between both parties, at least for the time being.

4.  Video: Sue Birch, HCA

Sue Birch is the Director of the Washington State Health Care Authority, where she leads the largest health care purchaser in the state. She has served in the position since being appointed by Gov. Inslee on January 1, 2018. Birch joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss the total cost of care.

“We’re all leaning in to really undertake an analysis of the costs that are borne in the [health care] system so that we can try to rein those in. It’s my belief that we can, over time, get some of the bloat and dysfunction and the waste out of the system and save about 8 to 10 percent off what our costs of care are right now. ”


5.  Lessons on COVID from the epicenter

For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a column titled “Dispatch from Seattle.” We’ve posted it mostly outside of Washington, in our other eight markets we cover. The idea is to share some of the lessons of life at what has been the epicenter of the COVID outbreak. So, I thought it perhaps appropriate to share a few of those columns with our Washington community, too.

In particuar, it’s worth recognizing that we’re all going through a process towards acceptance of our “new normal.” It feels something like the five stages of grief, to be honest. So, get perspective on where your head is through this process. Moreover, this moment calls for a new definition of what it means to be brave or courageous. It’s actually the opposite of what some folks are used to.