Inslee Asks Washington Manufacturers To Help COVID-19 Fight; Idaho Goes Vote-By-Mail For Primary

Kaas Tailored employees sew masks on Monday, March 23, 2020, at the Kaas Tailored furniture factory in Mukilteo. CREDIT: Megan Farmer/KUOW
Kaas Tailored employees sew masks on Monday, March 23, 2020, at the Kaas Tailored furniture factory in Mukilteo. CREDIT: Megan Farmer/KUOW

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BY LIZ BRAZILE & NICHOLAS DESHAIS

Gov. Jay Inslee is calling on businesses across Washington state to help produce critical medical supplies, such as N95 masks, face shields, and testing supplies.

While state officials have leaned on the federal government to supply those resources from its stockpile, the governor says the Trump administration’s response hasn’t been aggressive enough.

“The calendar has turned to April. We know this month could be decisive in this effort, both in terms of our nation’s response and our state’s response against COVID-19,” Inslee said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

The governor went on to outline the significant and unmet demand for personal protective equipment for health care and other essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic. State officials have been preparing for a potential surge in the number of hospital patients sick with COVID-19.

ALSO SEE: Coronavirus News, Updates, Resources From NWPB

“We have been hopeful that the federal government would engage the Defense Production Act that would use the federal government’s ability to require manufacturers to make these products,” Inslee said, asserting that President Trump had partially done so by ramping up production of ventilators.

But the president hasn’t done the same for other crucial medical items, including masks, testing swabs, and surgical gowns.

“And unless that happens, we’ve just got to realize we have to put pedal to the metal right here on a volunteer basis in the state of Washington,” Inslee added.

On Monday, March 23, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee addressed the state and issued a 'stay-at-home' order in a further attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. CREDIT: Governor's Office

On Monday, March 23, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee addressed the state and issued a ‘stay-at-home’ order in a further attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. CREDIT: Governor’s Office

He cited the production of warships and aircrafts in the Puget Sound region during World War II, and urged manufacturers to help produce needed medical materials to the extent they’re able to. Some have already stepped up to the plate.

The Seattle-based company Outdoor Research has pledged to make approximately 200,000 masks per day during the COVID-19 emergency. The local manufacturer Ventec Life Systems is partnering with General Motors to build 10,000 ventilators per month.

Additionally, distilleries across Washington have shifted to producing hand sanitizer amid widespread shortages.

“We’re doing everything humanly possible to fill the needs for personal protection equipment for every Washingtonian that can use it,” Inslee said. “We are scouring the globe for supplies. We are embracing local manufacturers to make these products. We are conserving as much as we can these products.”

He added that a March 19 order he issued suspending elective surgeries was unpopular, but necessary to sustain the state’s supply of personal protective equipment.

Idaho Primary Now Vote-By-Mail

With Idahoans under stay-at-home orders and an election just seven weeks away, the state has decided the vote will go on – through the mail.

There are nearly 900,000 registered voters in Idaho, but before they can get a ballot they’ll have to request one. That’s because May 19 is a primary election, and voters have to pick which party’s ballot they want: Constitution, Democratic or Republican.

In a general election, all voters receive the same ballot.

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said Wednesday the state received a federal grant to cover the costs of a mail-in election, including prepaid return envelopes.

“We will be checking the voter registration list and anyone who has not already requested an absentee ballot will get an absentee request form in the mail within the next couple of weeks,” Denney said.

The deadline to return the form is the same day as the primary: May 19.

Up for election (see all candidates here) are three of the state’s four congressional seats and all of