The Tri-Cities and the rest of the nation are hunkering down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with schools closed, meetings canceled and public gathering spots going dark. Here’s what you need to know, what steps are being taken and what you can do to take control of an unsettling situation.
As of the afternoon of March 16, the Washington state Department of Health reported 904 cases of COVID-19 and 48 deaths. There were 9,451 negative tests.
There are no cases yet reported in Benton and Franklin counties, although Kadlec Regional Medical Center is treating a patient from another county.
Hoarding is a public health threat
The health department encourages residents to stop buying more hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and other supplies than they reasonably need, casting it as a challenge to public health. In fact, it added “Don’t buy more supplies than you absolutely need” to its list of recommendations to stay safe, along with frequent hand washing, social distancing, cleaning surfaces and staying home when sick.
The department encouraged residents to return to their normal pace of grocery shopping to ensure there is an adequate supply of supplies for their sick neighbors and for doctors, dentists and first responders.
New limits on gatherings, restaurants
Gov. Jay Inslee placed new limits banning gatherings with over 50 participants and ordered restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational facilities to temporarily shut down. Drive-thrus may remain open. The order does not apply to grocery stores and pharmacies. Other retail outlets will operate under reduced occupancy. The new orders go into effect at midnight March 16 and will be in place through March 31.
If you want to support your favorite business or restaurant, buy a gift card to use after the crisis abates.
Schools reach out to families
All public and private schools in Washington are closed by order of the governor through April 24. Locally, schools are taking steps to stay connected with their students and families.
Internet free for school households
Charter is offering free access to Spectrum internet service for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students that do not currently have it. Go to bit.ly/39LfFfg for information.
Boys and Girls Clubs steps in
Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin counties is providing child care with an emphasis on serving first responders, health care providers and parents whose continued employment is dependent on being physically present at work. The club encourages all others to keep their children at home if at all possible. Go to greatclubs.org for information.
Washington’s emergency refill rules are in effect. They authorize pharmacies to provide a 72-hour supply of medications even if prescriptions are expired, and 30 days if the pharmacy is unable to obtain refill authorization from the prescriber.
COVID-19 copays, deductibles waived
The Washington Insurance Commissioner waived the cost for COVID-19 testing under state-regulated health plans. The emergency order bans copays and deductibles for COVID-19 testing and suspends prior authorization requirements. The state does not regulate self-insured employer plans, Medicaid, Medicare or plans that cover federal employees or the military, though many of those have waived copays and deductibles in alignment with the national emergency order.
Talk to your kids
Your children are hearing bad information from their friends. The Washington Nursing Quality Care Commission advises speaking directly with one another to address worries and misinformation.
This post will be updated with new information.
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