Governor Inslee, Secretary Wiesman, Vice Admiral Bono, #

We are writing to thank you for your leader­ship during this unprece­dented crisis and to ask for your help to address a number of ongoing concerns. As unions repre­senting workers who are on the front­lines fighting this pandemic, we are hearing from our members daily about their genuine commit­ment to serving our commu­ni­ties combined with their very real fears of getting sick, poten­tially infecting others, and of the critical need for their protec­tion. As you well know, without our health care workers and emergency respon­ders, we will fail to adequately respond in the days ahead. 

We ask for your immediate help in the following areas: #

1. PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES #

Over the last several weeks, we have commu­ni­cated our request for more trans­parency in the supply chain of Personal Protec­tive Equip­ment (PPE) and supplies. We have heard that the state has received some signif­i­cant shipments of PPE from the Strategic National Stock­pile and other sources. Yet, those supplies have not made it into the hands of front­line health care workers and emergency responders. 

As the unions repre­senting workers who so desper­ately need PPE for their own safety, we ask that you provide a weekly report of amount of PPE at the EOC, where it is going, and to whom it is being distrib­uted (down to the facility level). We also ask that you request from the hospi­tals and health providers under the DOH fourpart triage list a weekly report of PPE on hand. 

Those of us repre­senting health care workers are hearing stories from our members of supplies of N‑95 masks and other PPE being locked in cabinets rather than provided to those on the front­lines. In the law enforce­ment commu­nity, depart­ment leader­ship is taking PPE supplies from jail facil­i­ties to offer some limited resources to officers; other depart­ments are directing supply officers to use tradi­tional purchasing chains” for needed PPE. Neither of these direc­tives are sustain­able or solution oriented. It is critical that we under­stand the supply chain and where PPE can be utilized by health care workers and first respon­ders now, rather than being saved for later. 

2. COVID-19 TESTING #

Many counties are prior­i­tizing testing of health care workers and first respon­ders; this is both appre­ci­ated and appro­priate. However, we are not receiving updates from counties or the state on the number of tests provided to health care workers and first respon­ders nor the results of those tests. We ask that you provide more trans­parency in testing, including a weekly report of a) how long it is taking to receive results, b) how many health care workers/​first respon­ders are being tested, and c) the results of those tests (i.e., number of positives and negatives). We also ask that the Governor’s Office inform EMS that first respon­ders must be prior­i­tized for testing, especially those with symptoms or workplace exposure. Test processing for first respon­ders and health care workers should be expedited. 

3. USE OF APPROPRIATE LEAVE #

As our members are exposed to COVID-19 on the job, there is no system-level response. A standard statewide protocol for exposure response, testing, and quaran­tine is urgently needed. This should include the use of appro­priate leave – front­line respon­ders should not be required to use accrued paid time off, vacation, or sick leave benefits while on quaran­tine. We ask that a statewide standard for leave be adopted that includes use of paid admin­is­tra­tive leave or workers’ compen­sa­tion with paid admin­is­tra­tive leave making up the differ­ence – in each case, when quaran­tined, isolated, or treated, employees should be kept whole in terms of salary and benefits. 

We also ask that the Governor clarify his earlier order regarding L&I claims filed by health care workers and first respon­ders – our members need clari­fi­ca­tion that the decision to self-quaran­tine due to workplace exposure without the specific direc­tion of a health care provider or employer admin­is­tra­tion is allow­able. We strongly believe that presump­tion of workplace illness should be made for health care workers and first responders. 

4. PROTECTION OF VULNERABLE WORKERS #

National COVID-19 guide­lines tell us that those in vulner­able categories – those over 60 years of age, pregnant women, and people with under­lying health condi­tions – need to be protected. In a recent press confer­ence, Governor Inslee stated in the strongest terms that workers in these vulner­able categories or those who live with vulner­able people should be allowed to either work from home or take extended leave, continue to be paid, and have their job avail­able to them when this crisis ends. While acknowl­edging that this policy did not yet carry the force of law, Governor Inslee clearly and unequiv­o­cally gave this direc­tion to businesses. 

Despite this, many of our members have been told they must remain on the job – including in emergency rooms and Inten­sive Care Units where the highest volume of COVID-19 patients are treated. Likewise, first respon­ders within fire and law enforce­ment who fall into the category of vulner­able workers must also be given accom­mo­da­tion during this emergency. We ask that you make clear to our employers that vulner­able workers must be protected through reason­able and safe accom­mo­da­tion or by staying home.

We greatly appre­ciate our partner­ship with you during this crisis, and we look forward to working with you to ensure the above concerns are addressed post haste. 

Sincerely,

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