Governor Jay Inslee says cooperate with contact tracers or you won’t leave home
At his May 12 press conference, Governor Jay Inslee laid out the plans for the Washington statewide contact tracing initiative.
“[The initiative] is robust, it is vigorous and it is comprehensive, and it needs to be all three to be successful,” Inslee said. “If we do not succeed in this second stage of our efforts, this virus could come right back and bite us.”
Inslee said that the state has seen early success in its efforts against COVID-19, and this initiative will represent a transition from one strategy to another.
Social distancing was the primary tool used against the virus. While the state is looking to open the economy, contact tracing and isolation of those who test positive will be the next tool.
“If this is successful, it will allow us to open our economy,” Inslee said. “This next stage… actually will be more difficult, and its success will depend on both the state and local public health officials and families who will need to be committed to this effort to help their community.”
Box the virus
The information Inslee provided was labeled as “Contact Tracing: Box in The Virus.” The steps were listed as follows:
Contact tracing involves interviewing people with positive COVID-19 tests to identify who they’ve been in contact with, getting those people tested and then making sure they isolate themselves and their families.
Isolation/Quarantine upon first symptoms
The Governor recommends that people are to quarantine immediately for 14-days upon experiencing the first systems. This includes entire households – e.g. all members of the household must isolate with the possible infected person.
Anyone who has had contact with that person will be quarantined until they have tested negative, even if they have not tested positive or shown symptoms.
Isolate quickly, identify, and quarantine contacts
To isolate quickly, 1,371 contact tracers will be trained to implement steps 2-5. The plan is to hire additional contact tracers including volunteers to relieve National Guardsmen.
This effort will be a partnership between local health districts and the Washington State Department of health. Individuals should quarantine immediately upon first symptoms and stay quarantined until receiving a negative test result.
Those who test positive will need to isolate for 14 days; that includes everyone who lives in the household. An interviewer will call those who test positive for COVID-19 to identify and inform close contacts of potential exposure.
Inslee also spent time talking about the privacy measures related to contact tracing. Individuals’ data will only be accessible to public health professionals; it will not be shared with anyone else.
Contacts will not be told the name of the person who may have exposed them to COVID-19.
By the end of the week, Inslee said the state will have 1,371 contact tracers trained and ready; 351 of those will be national guard, 390 will be Department of Licensing and 630 will be State/Local health professionals.
Contact tracers will not ask for the following information: immigration status, social security number, financial info or marital status.
For those businesses/individuals that don’t comply, the governor stated that he confirmed with Attorney General Bob Ferguson, there will be sanctions in civil or criminal court.
At timestamp 38:55 in the video of the press conference below, one reporter asked:
“When it comes to contact tracing, how are you guys going to handle people or families who want to refuse to test or to self isolate? If they want to leave their home to get groceries I know you’ve said they can’t do that; how will you make sure they don’t?”
Below is Jay Inslee’s response:
“Therefore, those individuals that refuse to cooperate with contact tracers and/or refuse testing, those individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes to purchase basic necessities such as groceries and/or prescriptions.
Those persons will need to make arrangements through friends, family, or a state-provided ‘family support personnel’.”