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  • Coronavirus – steps the state is taking to help

Coronavirus – steps the state is taking to help

Dear Neighbors,

The Legislature is taking this health crisis extremely seriously. We quickly appropriated $100 million to fund our state’s response, including monitoring, testing and support for local health departments.

To minimize public health risk, Governor Inslee has prohibited most large events of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and Public Health — Seattle & King County has issued health and safety guidelines that must be followed by the organizers of smaller public gatherings.

State agencies have announced measures to help people and businesses whose lives are disrupted. The governor’s office has assembled a central list of resources here. Below are some of the most important changes that can help you.

Worker and employer assistance

  • If an employer temporarily shuts down operations because of coronavirus, workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits and the employer may receive relief of benefit costs.
  • If workers are exposed to coronavirus and asked to isolate or quarantine by a doctor or health official, they may receive unemployment benefits while they are temporarily away from work. A bill passed recently by the Legislature waives the requirement that people in this situation must be actively searching for work.
  • If workers fall seriously ill and are forced to quit, they cannot collect unemployment benefits while they are seriously ill but may be eligible once they recover and are able and available for work.
  • If employers file their tax reports late, pay their taxes late, or miss deadlines as a result of coronavirus, the penalties have been made more lenient.

Health care coverage 

  • In response to the spread of coronavirus, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period for health insurance through April 8. You can call 1-855-923-4633 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Insurance assistance 

  • The Insurance Commissioner has required all insurance plans to cover coronavirus tests with no cost-sharing and no prior authorization requirement for people who meet the CDC criteria for testing.
  • He has also required insurance plans to allow enrollees to refill their prescriptions early one time in order to maintain an adequate supply.

School updates

Several schools around the state, including some in Kent, have closed, but many remain open. This is a quickly moving situation, and the latest updates will be reflected on individual school websites or here.

Protect your health and your loved ones

First of all, if someone you know has a fever and non-acute respiratory distress, they should call their doctor – not go to the clinic or hospital. Symptoms to watch for are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The best preparations are to prevent infection with simple yet effective actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (singing happy birthday twice).
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow, sleeve or tissue (not your hands).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Bump elbows with friends rather than giving hugs or handshakes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Use hand sanitizers when unable to wash your hands.

If you have symptoms and do not have a doctor to call, you can call the King County coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 or the Washington State Department of Health call center at 1-800-525-0127.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore