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Gov. Inslee asks industries to shift to wartime-style medical gear production

Washington still has a long ways to go in fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Now, more businesses are being asked to step up to help.

KUOW's Paige Browning brings us up to speed on the latest.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

First, a new announcement from Washington Governor Jay Inslee today. He's calling on manufacturers in the state to step up in the face of the coronavirus. What specifically is he calling for?

Governor Inslee and business leaders are asking manufactures in the state to start making products that are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

That might mean stopping what they’re doing now or doing both. This is not a directive, but a statewide request for help.

Already, we've seen 30 Washington distilleries making hand sanitizer. Eddie Bauer, the company Outdoor Research, and costume makers are making different kinds of face masks.

General Motors is teaming with a Bothell-based ventilator company to ramp up production. Inslee wants to see more of this, and quickly:

"What we have done so far is not enough. We rather urgently need to increase the stocks of particularly personal protection equipment. Our nurses deserve to be protected, they are on the front lines and they are heroes."

And on a related note, there are a handful of Seattle restaurants that have also transformed, and are now community kitchens for people in need. The Filipino restaurant Musang and Guerilla Pizza Kitchen are among them.

When it comes to this new announcement, what specifically does the state want businesses to produce?

He wants manufacturers to produce face shields, N-95 and surgical masks, saline solution, vials, and swab tests, and other materials that can be used to prevent coronavirus from spreading. Many of these we’re in short supply of.

He says despite asking for these supplies from the federal government, the amount Washington has received is inadequate. And he used some powerful imagery to make this request today:

"In World War II, the people of Washington state built B-29s in Seattle, they built minesweepers on Bainbridge Island in Kitsap County, and now it is time for all of us to turn to manufacturing the equipment we need in this fight, in this war."

That’s not the first time he’s compared this to a wartime. He's making this request with the backing of the Association of Washington Business.

Whether we have enough personal protective equipment is one big question we continue to track. Another, is whether our hospitals have enough capacity to handle COVID-19 cases. What's the latest on this?

The latest projections indicate we have enough hospital beds to hold most patients that will need hospitalization. Specifically, at the peak, about 2,500 people are expected to need to be in the hospital because of COVID-19. We have more beds than that. More than 300 will need an ICU bed specifically, and we might be short there.

This is based on the UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation models. I should say, these projections are a sort of optimistic, and they have been criticized for that. And they say that there will be a peak that then starts to flatten shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, we're seeing more temporary hospitals and quarantine sites pop up. People who need to be in the hospital and don't have COVID-19 will soon be sent to a field hospital at CenturyLink Field, or a facility the state just bought in the Central District that used to be a nursing home.

Both of those will be hospitals. And, there's a new quarantine site in Everett as of today. People who don't have a place to live but need to recover from COVID-19 will be sent there.

Shifting gears, this is National Census Day, when people are encouraged to fill out the census form, just one big, concerted push. How have census officials adapted to the outbreak?

Census workers are not going out in the field right now to remind you to fill out your form, which everyone needs to do to be counted in America.

It's probably good news that the phrases #WAcounts and #Wecount were trending today on social media, because the census bureau is really relying on the internet to get people to fill this out.

Today is not the deadline, but April 1 is important for the census. On the form, they ask you where you live as of April 1, 2020.

We're also hearing a special plea this week from concert and nightlife businesses in Washington. What are they asking?

A coalition of clubs including Neumos, Columbia City Theater, the Showbox, Tractor Tavern and more say this is really damaging their industry. They are asking state and federal lawmakers for everything from immediate cash grants, to tax and insurance relief.

They've formed a new group, Washington Nightlife & Music Association. They say some of the local clubs are already going to close, but haven't announced it yet. And others need help ASAP if they're to survive.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.