With concern growing over the potential for a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, one state leader is moving forward with preparations for the worst.
Gov. Jay Inslee, the Democrat leader of Washington state, declared a state of emergency on Saturday in hopes of ensuring all necessary resources are available to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease that has been dubbed COVID-19, the Washington Examiner reports.
The move from Inslee came following news that a patient over 50 who tested positive for the virus had died, the first reported death from the disease in the U.S., according to the Examiner.
In a statement announcing the state of emergency, Gov. Inslee said the declaration “will allow us to get the resources we need.”
“This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state,” he added.
The governor also said officials in the state are taking the “threat seriously,” adding that a “worldwide pandemic” is “likely.”
“Our state agency directors have been actively preparing since the nation’s first case appeared in Snohomish County,” Inslee said. “Washingtonians can be assured we’ve taken this threat seriously and have been working in collaboration with our health care partners to develop plans and procedures to prepare for what could likely be a worldwide pandemic.”
Slowing the spread
In addition to directing state agencies to utilize resources toward combating the spread of the disease, the governor’s office said in a statement that his declaration also allows for the use of the Washington National Guard, “if necessary.” Notably, the Washington Military Department had already activated its State Emergency Operations Center at a Level 1 status, its highest level, to ready itself to assist with the statewide response, the statement added.
The governor’s statement also noted that the Washington state Department of Health has announced it now has a Public Health Lab that is fully capable of testing for COVID-19, which should speed up the diagnosis process for suspected cases.
“This means our state can respond quickly and effectively,” Gov. Inslee explained. “Our priority now is to slow the spread of this virus.”
According to Inslee, “the easiest way to do that is to practice good hygiene — wash your hands often, sanitize frequently touched surfaces and stay home when you’re sick. Preventing future cases will require the work of all of us,” he added.
Preparing for anything
At this point, it remains unclear what impact the coronavirus disease will have on the U.S. In fact, some may see Inslee’s move as an overreaction, particularly in light of the fact that health officials have said most Americans have little to fear from COVID-19.
Either way, it’s easy to imagine other states following suit in the near future, particularly as new cases continue to pop up around the country. In the meantime, President Donald Trump insists that the U.S. is “prepared for any circumstance.”
“We would respectfully ask the media and politicians involved…not to incite a panic,” the president said Saturday, according to RealClearPolitics. “This is something that’s being handled professionally… Our country is prepared for any circumstance. We hope it’s not going to be a major circumstance, it’ll be a smaller circumstance.”