Monthly Archives: March 2020

Q&A – How the coronavirus may affect childcare

March 25th, 2020|

As we continue to deal with the coronavirus, I’m hearing from households with questions about childcare access and availability.

Gov. Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order this week deems childcare an essential service, but exactly what that means may vary for parents and childcare providers. If childcare is a concern for you, I hope the following answers to commonly asked questions will be of help.

What has been the impact on the childcare system?

The demand for available childcare is very high and access is limited. The day following the closure of K-12 institutions, Child Care Aware Washington saw a 200 percent increase in families seeking care at its referral center. Since this time, it has broadened outreach to providers to assess who is staying open and who is closed. As of March 20, 439 programs had closed, which represents about 21,000 childcare slots. As this is still being updated, that number may have already risen and is likely to remain fluid.

Not surprisingly, local childcare providers are facing significant challenges. Like many in the healthcare industry, childcare providers are having difficulty locating sanitation and cleaning supplies. Child Care Aware has been communicating directly with suppliers and distributors and is contacting providers to better define what is needed and where.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health (DOH), state Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), and the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) are collaborating to develop a provision of essential services that will not jeopardize the health of children, staff or parents. DCYF has created a page where parents and providers can ask questions here.

Are childcare providers required to stay open?

While the governor’s order designates childcare facilities as necessary services, they are under no mandate to remain open. Childcare providers are independent business owners and make their own decisions about whether they should or can stay open during the pandemic. DCYF is reaching out to help them as they make these difficult decisions.

DOH has offered guidance to providers that covers health screening at entry, social distancing, outside play, meals and snack time, drop-off and pick-up, hygiene practices, transportation, and other concerns.

When should a childcare entity close?

At this time, DOH supports a closure if someone confirmed with coronavirus spent time there and had contacts with other individuals in the setting. In this situation, DOH and the local public health department will work with the childcare facility to consider the duration of the closure and to determine steps to limit the spread.

Will schools provide childcare for first responders?

Locally, the Evergreen Public School District is offering free childcare to healthcare workers and first responders, as detailed in this link. In addition, this Q&A offers information on childcare services for schools within the larger region’s Educational Service District 112.

More broadly, OSPI has issued new guidance on childcare by schools, and OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal has directed school districts to prioritize care for the children of healthcare workers, first responders, pharmacy workers, and grocery store workers. Districts have been directed to use the following definitions in determining whether a household falls under one of these categories:

  • Members of the healthcare workforce, as defined by the Washington State Medical Association, include people who work in any setting where healthcare services, long-term care, long-term services and supports, or personal care are delivered. This includes, but is not limited to: hospitals, clinics, behavioral health centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family homes, and personal homes.
  • First responders include firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel as licensed or certificated by the state.

Beyond serving these groups, school districts have the discretion to serve other students and families provided they have capacity and observe social distancing guidelines to the best of their ability. A few districts have taken it upon themselves to assist these kinds of facilities, often in partnership with other local nonprofits like Boys and Girls Clubs and local YMCA and YWCA entities.

Is licensing a barrier to schools providing childcare?

Schools are not required to be licensed in order to offer K–5 childcare during the COVID-19 crisis unless they serve infants and toddlers. If a school partners with a community-based program that is licensed, that program can continue to operate under its existing license. Licensed programs may need to adjust their existing licenses in order to increase capacity and accommodate more children, change the location of a program site, or make other changes to better serve prioritized families. DCYF has an emergency licensing waiver process in place to assist with changes.

In addition, community-based organizations not currently licensed by DCYF may be eligible to operate as educational/recreational camps during the COVID-19 emergency. For more information about this option, potential providers should email DCYF at emergencychildcare@dcyf.wa.gov or call DCYF’s licensing office at 509-544-5712.

My family and I are heeding the advice to stay home so we can all stay healthy — and I hope you are, too. To limit the spread of coronavirus, my staff and I are now teleworking. We continue to monitor calls to my office and perform other legislative tasks, but we have suspended public interaction such as town hall meetings and other activities that involve gatherings of groups of people.

I will continue to provide updates as common questions arise. In the meantime, I encourage you to please do the best you can to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak – An Update

March 18th, 2020|

In this stressful time of uncertainty over the spread of coronavirus, I’d like to provide an update and a reminder of best practices for avoiding exposure. If we all take this growing health threat seriously and heed the advice of our medical experts, we can get through this, but the days immediately ahead are critical. If people who do not know they have been exposed mingle with others, the exposures will multiply exponentially.

The single most important thing to do now is limit contact with others.

We are in a stage of peak contagion, when exposure to the virus is projected to double every five days. But if we alter our normal behaviors and cut off contact with others, we can reduce the numbers of people who will be exposed, which will in turn reduce the numbers who will test positive, which will in turn reduce the numbers who develop life-threatening illness. We can reduce illness and truly save lives, but only if we take the right steps now.

During this key period, our only way to break the chain of transmission is to vastly limit contact with others. This is why Gov. Inslee has ordered the closure of restaurants and bars, movie theaters and recreational facilities – in other words, anywhere groups of people congregate. While we still need to go out and buy food and medical prescriptions, we should limit our public activities to the bare minimum needed.

Here is what our medical experts tell us is most important:

  • Maintain a distance of six feet or more from anyone else.
  • If you are 60 years old or older, or if you have an underlying medical condition, you should self-isolate to reduce the risk of exposure; the fatality rate is much higher for people who are older or have compromised immune systems.
  • Re-think your daily routine, whether it is socializing with a family member or dear friend to attending group activities like churches or clubs, and limit your activity to only what is absolutely necessary.
  • Be there for each other. We are in this together and we need community more than ever. Reach out via phone or text or email to family and friends, to neighbors and anyone you know who you think might need help or reassurance. Just because we should keep our distance physically doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other emotionally.

Here’s what we’re doing at the state level:

As chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, I worked closely with my Legislative colleagues last week to assemble and pass legislation, HB 2965, appropriating funding to address the coronavirus crisis. Because I know all of us are being impacted in some way by this crisis, we worked hard to ensure that emergent needs can be met and that our state and local health departments have the full resources they need to respond to the pandemic. We are prepared to respond further as needed.

For now, we have provided $200 million to:

  • support monitoring, testing and local public health response;
  • expand unemployment insurance for people who are quarantined;
  • increase access to health care coverage by opening enrollment for anyone who does not currently have health insurance;
  • mitigate catastrophic losses at local businesses, for employees as well as employers.

We have also taken action to:

  • ensure that people receiving unemployment insurance can continue to do so even if they cannot meet the work search requirements due to quarantine;
  • support businesses that rehire employees who had to go on unemployment insurance because of the coronavirus emergency;
  • reimburse nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response; and
  • allow school employees to maintain health insurance eligibility for the rest of the school year even if they come up short of required work hours due to this emergency.

As a result of this legislation, state agencies have announced measures to help people and businesses most direly impacted. The governor’s office has assembled a central list of resources here.

To address increased demands for our health care workforce, DOH is registering licensed volunteer health practitioners and has 100 workers already registered. This is allowed under the Volunteer Emergency Health Practitioner Act, a bill we passed in 2018 for states of emergency such as we now face.

In addition, I am working closely with other elected and community leaders to identify and meet any unforeseen needs. I am in contact with our area mayors, our Clark County officials, and local health care partners to share information and update emergent needs or concerns. I maintain conference calls with our legislative caucus as well, so that we each know what’s happening outside our districts as well as within them.

Other actions:

  • I’ve heard from many local businesses in Clark County worried about eligibility for Small Business Association loans related to coronavirus, and I can report that the SBA’s freshly released and revised criteria should erase those concerns. This link spells out the process for disaster assistance through the SBA.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You can find more updates from the Insurance Commissioner at this link.
  • Many public and private schools have been ordered closed for the duration. You can find more detailed information from the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction here.
  • If you have symptoms and do not have a doctor to call, you can call the state Department of Health call center at 800-525-0127.

Thank you for your patience, help, and kind messages of support. This is a difficult time for everyone, and I am grateful for the positive, can-do attitude of our 49th Legislative District. Together, we will take care of one another and see this through.

  • Permalink Gallery

    House passes Cleveland bill to align good-faith child abuse reporting

House passes Cleveland bill to align good-faith child abuse reporting

March 5th, 2020|

Legislation passed unanimously today by the House will align state laws with federal laws governing the reporting of child abuse, ensuring consistency and extending the state’s eligibility for millions of dollars in federal aid.

“If someone believes a child is being abused, we want them to report it — not keep quiet for fear of penalty for a mistaken report,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), the bill’s sponsor. “The important thing is to make sure we protect kids from abuse, and this bill removes an impediment to intervening on their behalf.”

Drafted at the request of the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, Senate Bill 6423 provides information or assistance in the report, investigation, and legal proceedings of child abuse or neglect.

The change aligns state law with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, a federal law that provides funding and guidance to states to support and encourage prevention, investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse.

Having passed both the Senate and House, the bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

Coronavirus: What we’re doing, and what you should know

March 4th, 2020|

Dear friends and neighbors,

As more cases of coronavirus are being confirmed in Washington state, including the nation’s first known fatalities, I want to assure you that the state Senate is taking fast action to ensure that our public health organizations have the support they need for a full response.

Last week we passed an operating budget that dramatically increased funding for public health organizations responding to the coronavirus. Even more funding could be on the way, given the rapidly evolving situation and Monday’s request from Washington’s Secretary of Health John Wiesman to increase the outbreak response funding to $100 million.

Though none of this is news we wanted to hear, we had to prepare for it nevertheless, and we did — and we are ready to respond with additional funding as needed. The good news is we have a phenomenal public health system in our state, and we have been making sure they have the resources to do everything possible to keep the public safe.

Our first priority is protecting the public, just as we helped our public health organizations contain last year’s measles outbreak in Clark County. But we also need to make sure our local businesses are able to weather the economic impacts of the virus. A number of businesses that rely heavily on trade with Asia, for instance, have been severely disrupted by quarantines that have shut down Asian ports. To that end, we added $5 million to the operating budget to provide loans and other assistance to businesses blindsided by the pandemic.

At the same time, the Senate passed my resolution on Monday committing the state to recommend and implement best practices for infection control — in workplaces, in homes, and in public venues. A short list of best practices includes:

  • Washing your hands often, coughing into a tissue or elbow, and avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Staying home if you’re sick.
  • If you have symptoms like cough, fever or other respiratory problems, call your healthcare provider before you go to a clinic or emergency room.

For more information on the virus and ways to stay healthy, you can watch this work session where state health officials briefed the Senate Ways & Means Committee Monday on the state of the coronavirus and recommendations for best practices. Even more information can be found on this webpage from the state Department of Health, which also has a call center with updates on what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms. If you have a question, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

We are fortunate to have the best health experts in the country working on this, backed by the full support of the Legislature. Please know we will continue to work together to meet the challenges of this public health emergency.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Senate passes Cleveland resolution, funds for coronavirus response

Senate passes Cleveland resolution, funds for coronavirus response

March 2nd, 2020|

OLYMPIA — As more cases of coronavirus are being confirmed in Washington state, including the nation’s first known fatalities, the state Senate is passing directives and funding for a full response from public health organizations.

“This is the news we haven’t wanted to hear but had to prepare for,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), chair of the Senate Health Committee. “The good news is we have a phenomenal public health system in our state, and last week we passed a budget that will help our public health organizations implement the plans they have for responding to exactly this kind of crisis. They know what to do, and we know what they need – and are providing it. We stand ready to provide additional support as needed.”

The Senate’s proposed operating budget increased funding for public health organizations responding to the coronavirus, and added funding to address local businesses that might be impacted. That funding level will likely grow during budget negotiations given the rapidly evolving situation and today’s request from Washington’s Secretary of Health John Wiesman to increase the outbreak response funding to up to $100 million.

“We are protecting the public first and foremost, just as we helped our public health organizations contain the measles outbreak last year in Clark County. In addition to the funding in the Senate budget for public health, there is flexibility in the budget to provide more if needed,” Cleveland said. “At the same time, we also need to make sure our businesses are able to weather the economic impacts of the virus.”

The Senate Ways & Means Committee invited health officials to provide an overview on the state of the coronavirus in a work session today. That hearing can be watched here and includes recommendations for best practices by Washington residents concerned about the virus. Also today, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Cleveland that commits the state to recommending and implementing best practices for infection control — in workplaces, in homes, and in any public venues.

“I think everyone knows at this point to take this seriously,” Cleveland said. “Everyone should also know that we have the best health experts in the country working on this, backed by the full support of the Legislature. We are taking all possible steps to protect the public and minimize the spread of the virus.”

For the latest information about the spread of the virus, see the dedicated page on the Washington State Department of Health website, and for information about what to do to help prevent the spread, see this site from Public Health – Seattle & King County.

The Washington State Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.