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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: Hospital Epidemiologist Dr. Tara Palmore dons personal protective equipment (PPE) at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., in 2015.
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Hospital Epidemiologist Dr. Tara Palmore dons personal protective equipment (PPE) at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., in 2015.

Elective surgeries, dental procedures to be postponed under new Washington state order

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday ordered the suspension of all non-urgent surgeries in Washington state until May 18.

The action is part of an effort to conserve protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Inslee's order to suspend non-urgent surgeries does not apply to patients who need emergency procedures to treat complications related to heart attacks, strokes, or motor vehicle accidents.

Additionally, hospitals and surgery centers may proceed with surgical operations if a deferred procedure would worsen a patient's condition within the next three months.

That exception would apply, for example, to anyone urgently needing a cancerous tumor removed or to people needing dental care to manage pain or control an infection.

Among the procedures subject to Inslee's moratorium are: cosmetic procedures, most joint replacements, non-urgent cardiac procedures, some endoscopy, some interventional radiology services, and most cataract and lens surgeries.

The action comes in the wake of an apparent shortage in personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, gowns, and face shields for health care workers responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state, as well as other areas of the world impacted by the disease.

The Washington State Department of Health has called on the federal government to help alleviate shortages in gear for health care workers.

To date, Washington state has received more than 360,000 N95 respirators, more than 500,000 surgical masks, gowns, face shields, and gloves requested from the Strategic National Stockpile.

But that hasn't been enough. State officials only received 25% of what was asked for, according to Lisa Stromme Warren, a Department of Health spokesperson. Officials say they're waiting on an additional request made on March 13 to be filled by the Trump administration.

READ: ‘It’s almost a last-minute situation.’ Healthcare facilities frustrated by lack of supplies

“We know the health care personal protective equipment supply chain in Washington has been severely disrupted by the significant increased use of such equipment worldwide,” Inslee said in a press release. “We will do all we can to protect the women and men who protect us.”

However, Inslee said on Tuesday that the Trump administration had agreed to change the prioritization of the federal stockpile of medical equipment at Washington state officials' request.

"So this change in the priority system we think will help us accelerate the replenishing of our state stockpile for masks and gloves and everything else we need from the federal stockpile," Inslee said. "We think this is going to give us a better situation, so we can respond to the outbreak here in Washington state."