5 Things Washington: Lindeblad to retire, Inslee’s vetoes, Masking requirements
My grandmother would store wads of cash in her box springs because, as a child of the Great Depression, she couldn’t trust the banks. I see my children now worried about being indoors without masks. My six-year old isn’t able to feel fully comfortable eating inside a restaurant, even one with open-air ventilation, social distancing, and reduced occupancy. I suspect she’s not alone. The traumas we experience together can linger with us longer than we think.
COVID isn’t going away. It’s endemic and will remain with us. So, we should be intentional about trusting our vaccines and our mitigation strategies — while also taking appropriate risks to re-enter normal social settings and engagements.
This process won’t be a straight line. It might be two steps forward and some steps back. But, storing thousands of dollars in a box spring for 50 years seems foolish in hindsight. At some point, we’ll want to try to wrestle with the trauma we’ve all endured.
With help from Emily Boerger
1. Lindeblad to retire in July
Washington State Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad announced her retirement last week effective July 31. Lindeblad has been at the Health Care Authority since 2012 and was previously Assistant Secretary of the Aging and Disability Services Administration at DSHS. In an email to colleagues, Lindeblad said, “This was not an easy decision to make, but it was made easier knowing how much progress we have made in building an integrated Apple Health program that focuses on whole-person health and equitable access to health care.”
MaryAnne is one of the nation’s longest serving Medicaid Directors, going back to the time when the Medical Assistance Administration was housed in DSHS. She’s been both generous and gracious with her time to support State of Reform over the years, for which we are very grateful. Best of luck in retirement, MaryAnne! Hope your Dawgs can get a few wins this fall!
2. 5 slides: Addressing variation in health equity
From vaccine distribution to access to health care services, there continues to be variation in health outcomes based on race, gender, and economic status. On Wednesday, June 2, from 11:00am – 12:00pm PDT, we’ll host State Representative My-Linh Thai, Community Health Plan of Washington CEO Leanne Berge, and Dr. Ali Thomas, Medical Director, Healthcare Career Pathways at Kaiser Permanente of Washington, for a conversation on how Washington’s health care system can do by better by our neighbors and community members.
This free event is part of our “Virtual Conversations” series, and will feature “5 Slides” or graphics brought by our guests and our team at State of Reform. This event is free to attend, but you have to register to join us. We hope to see you there!
3. Inslee faces veto backlash
Tribal leaders and legislators from his own party are furious with Gov. Inslee for vetoes he issued last week. In a scathing statement, Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of American Indians, said Inslee’s veto of Tribal rights provisions in the Climate Commitment Act is “the most egregious and shameless betrayal of a deal” she has ever witnessed “from a politician of any party, at any level.” The governor also issued partial vetoes to subsections of the cap-and-trade and low carbon fuel standard, drawing bipartisan blowback. In private statements from legislators, the problem isn’t just Inslee’s vetoes, but rather that his office represented support for broader legislative compromises only to remove the part of the compromise he didn’t like with his veto pen.
Among Inslee’s vetoes was a bipartisan COVID-19 privacy bill which would have protected health data collected by certain third parties, such as those that participated in the state’s contact tracing efforts. Inslee said that while he supports the goals of the legislation, the language in the bill is too broad and “appears to prohibit efforts by public and private entities to offer incentives to become vaccinated.” Rep. Matt Boehnke, one of the bill’s sponsors, says he is frustrated with the governor’s decision but he plans to move forward with data privacy legislation in the future.
4. PNW doctors on the lookout for heart inflammation
Over the weekend, Willamette Week reported that the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has started warning doctors to look for heart inflammation among individuals complaining of chest pain who have been recently vaccinated. The warning comes after 6 cases in Oregon and Washington State.
Willamette Week Reporter Rachel Monahan writes: “OHA is telling physicians, this is an investigation into a possible link between myocarditis or pericarditis and the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, particularly in young people.” A link has so far not been established. The Washington State Department of Health yesterday evening released a statement saying Washington providers have been notified about the issue and the department is working with the CDC and local public health to gather data about these incidents.
5. An update to state masking requirements
While Washington has changed its mask guidelines to align with the current CDC guidance, King County is hesitant to follow suit. In a tweet, King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said, “The time will come when mask mandates are no longer necessary for everyone, for now let’s stick with what’s working.” King County will wait until 70% or more of residents age 16 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before it changes its mask guidelines.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries issued updated workplace safety and health guidance Friday to help employers adapt masking policies to meet new guidelines. In a somewhat confusingly written directive, employers can still determine whether to require employees wear masks in the workplace. But, if they want to not require masks as a result of increasing vaccinations, then employers are now required to get every employee to sign an attestation that they are vaccinated in order to stop wearing masks. They are now subject to ‘enforcement’ and must keep written logs of signed employee attestations for an indefinite period of time.