Monthly Archives: April 2020

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    Media Advisory: 33rd District Legislative Delegation Joined by WA Health Care Authority Official for Facebook Live Community Conversation on the COVID-19 Pandemic

Media Advisory: 33rd District Legislative Delegation Joined by WA Health Care Authority Official for Facebook Live Community Conversation on the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 30th, 2020|

April 30, 2020

WHO: Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), Reps. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) and Mia Gregerson (D-Seatac) of the 33rd Legislative District will be joined by Dr. Charissa Fotinos, deputy chief medical officer for the Washington State Health Care Authority.

WHAT: A Facebook Live Community Conversation.

WHEN: 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, May 5

WHERE: On Facebook:  You can sign up there ahead of time or simply go to the link when the event starts. Questions can also be submitted ahead of time here:

WHY: Your elected officials and a public health official will answer questions on our state’s efforts to contain COVID-19 as well as how we will recover from this unprecedented challenge.

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    The hidden heroes in the COVID-19 pandemic face constant risk

The hidden heroes in the COVID-19 pandemic face constant risk

April 16th, 2020|

Special to South King Media
By Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Mike Sells

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores, the safest course has been to stay home and stay away from others. Unfortunately, not everyone can do that.

The sacrifices of medical professionals and first responders, for whom there is never such a thing as time off during a crisis, are easily recognized by a properly grateful public. But equally courageous are the hidden heroes of the pandemic — the agricultural workers and grocery store employees without whom we would have no food or other essential items.

That cashier ringing up our purchases at the supermarket? She’s stuck there for a full shift, day after day. While we can limit our outings to once-a-week trips for essentials only, and maintain safe distances from those around us when we do, she’s denied those options. The physical constraints of the checkout stand keep her closer than the recommended six feet to the nonstop stream of customers who slowly pass through her line. It’s not much better for her coworkers, who keep the shelves stocked and clean up the spill on aisle 12, or for others whose work cannot be performed online or has not been suspended altogether.

Fortunately, many large supermarkets have worked collaboratively with their employees to adopt practices to reduce their exposure and recognize the risks they face by providing hazard pay. These businesses are calling for all supermarkets to adopt these practices as well, an action we commend. Any employer whose workers’ duties put them at risk of exposure should be rethinking their operations for ways to reduce those risks.

If you’re an employee who thinks you’re being required to work under unsafe or unreasonable circumstances because of the pandemic, go to this link — You’ll find guidance on workplace conditions, filing a complaint with the state Labor & Industries Department, and many related concerns.

Meanwhile, thousands of other essential workers remain in vulnerable positions during this pandemic and, unlike many of the grocery workers, have no union to advocate for improved safety standards. Whether they work at the gas station, the drugstore, the hardware store or even liquor or marijuana retailers, these employees report every day to workplaces with higher odds of exposure to an on-the-job coronavirus hazard.

Another large group of hidden heroes in this crisis are the agricultural workers who guide our food from the field to the store — and who continue their critical work despite the threat of exposure to coronavirus. With the safety of agricultural workers emerging as a growing concern, we are coordinating with the governor’s office and with representatives of agricultural employers and employees to improve safeguards for these vital workers at the front line of our food chain — and the pandemic.

These workers aren’t the only hidden heroes providing essential services these days, but they are some of the most obvious as we limit our tasks to the very most essential. Whether we get to keep calling all of them heroes, or are forced to grieve for some of them as victims, depends on safe practices and good fortune. As the pandemic progresses, we dearly hope all of them will remain heroes — and not become victims.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary responses, and the coronavirus crisis has been nothing if not extraordinary. So, too, has been the daily performance and sacrifice of these workers. As we acknowledge their invaluable work in this time of historic crisis, we must similarly prioritize their need for health and safety.

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) chairs the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee and Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett) chairs the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.

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    New law improves options for people with developmental disabilities

New law improves options for people with developmental disabilities

April 2nd, 2020|

A new law signed today by Gov. Inslee will create groundbreaking new options for people with developmental disabilities, including community care close to home, nursing home care, and state centers of excellence.

“This is a major turning point in the long debate about our state’s RHCs, rehabilitation centers for people with developmental disabilities,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the sponsor of Senate Bill 6419. “For the first time in 40 years, these vital services will be dramatically more appropriate and comprehensive.”

The new law directs the state Developmental Disability Administration to implement recommendations of the William D. Ruckelshaus stakeholder report for transitions for residential habilitation center clients and establishes a joint executive-legislative task force to oversee implementation of the recommendations.

“This is a result of 18 months of meetings with stakeholders to resolve three decades of conflict,” Keiser said. “This preserves vital federal funding that was in jeopardy and improves services for everyone with developmental disabilities in communities across our state.”

Keiser said the process was bipartisan with both Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett) and Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) as key players in negotiations that led to a historic level of consensus between diverse interests and advocates.

The joint legislative and executive task force must meet with and provide updates to the stakeholders, including the Developmental Disabilities Council, the Arc of Washington, Disability Rights Washington, family members or guardians of current residential habilitation center residents, individuals with developmental disabilities, developmental disability self-advocacy organizations, the Washington Federation of State Employees, and Service Employees International Union 1199.

“People with development disabilities and their families deserve not just services but a choice,” Keiser said. “We will be transitioning services from large centralized institutions to communities these folks can call home.”

E-News: COVID-19 – What to do, who to call

April 1st, 2020|

Dear neighbors,

These days I am heeding the experts’ advice to stay home and stay healthy – and I hope you are too. Our state and our nation are losing precious lives to this virus, but hopefully the worst days are behind us. Let’s all do our part and get through this safely!

Please do what our health experts advise.

  • Maintain a distance of six feet or more from others.
  • If you are 60 years old or older, or have an underlying medical condition, you should self-isolate.
  • Re-think all daily routines and eliminate interaction that is not essential. As inconvenient as this is, our behavior could mean a life-and-death difference for those most vulnerable to the virus.
  • Be there for your family, friends, neighbors and anyone else you think might need help or reassurance. We can keep our distance physically and still be there for each other emotionally by calling, texting or emailing.

If you suspect you may have coronavirus:

  • Call your doctor – do not go to the hospital. Your doctor will make an assessment about next steps, and many are using telehealth options. If you require a COVID-19 test, your doctor will contact public health officials to arrange a test.
  • 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. You can also call this number if you have general questions about COVID-19 or the state’s response. Phone lines are staffed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, with interpreters available.
  • Recognizing the serious threat of coronavirus, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period for health insurance through April 8. Call 1-855-923-4633 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • The state 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. The commissioner 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 insurance updates at this link.

Know your unemployment options.

  • The state offers a range of unemployment assistance to employers and employees, such as reduced or subsidized work schedules and benefits, but not everyone knows about them.
  • If an employer has had to temporarily shut down operations, for example, workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits and the employer may receive relief of benefit costs. If workers are asked to isolate or quarantine by a doctor or health official, they may receive unemployment benefits while they are temporarily away from work. And the Legislature has waived the requirement that people in this situation must be actively searching for work.
  • Washington has made it faster for those who are unemployed due to COVID-19 to receive unemployment insurance. See if you qualify here.
  • In addition, other state agencies are also taking action to help people and businesses disrupted by the pandemic, adjusting resources to address our current extraordinary circumstances. You can access a broader list of resources here.

Where to find the most useful information and updates:

As the scope and nature of the pandemic evolves from day to day, so does the available information and advice. You can sign up for email updates from the state Department of Health here, and you can also check the links below for updates.

  • WA’s COVID-19 portal is your one-stop shop for all information related to Covid-19 and is constantly being updated here.
  • Statewide statistics: This map has up-to-date statistics on the outbreak in Washington state.
  • Other languages: Fact sheets about coronavirus are available in 15 languages here.
  • Schools: Do you have questions about school closures? The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is continuously updating information here.
  • Essential business list: Got questions about whether your job or business is considered essential during the governor’s “stay home, stay healthy” order? Find your answer here.
  • Personal protective equipment: Washington is seeking to fill shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gowns, and gloves to support our medical system, first responders, public health facilities. Learn how you can help here.
  • Emergency volunteer health practitioners: Did you know? Health practitioners who are licensed in other states can help in Washington. Learn how here.

These are challenging times, but I am confident we are up to the challenge. The key now is to be patient, be careful and stay healthy.

We will see this through together,