Governor Jay Inslee says his state will join other western states to review Covid vaccines, when they become available. Also during a press conference on Tuesday, the governor urged Idahoans to wear their masks when around others.
First, vaccines. Inslee says five western states have formed a partnership to review any Covid vaccines that are approved by the federal government.
“This will be an added layer of assurance of an expert review that will help Washingtonians and others in western states have greater faith and greater confidence in the vaccine so that we can increase the number of folks that actually get the vaccination," he said.
The partnership group includes Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado and Nevada. One common characteristic is that all of them are led by governors who are Democrats.
“It [the partnership] will include experts appointed by other member states, including our own. It will be made up of nationally-recognized scientists with expertise in immunizations and public health. It will bring an additional level of scrutiny to this process," he said.
Inslee says, once the FDA signals it has approved a new vaccine, that the group will immediately get to work to review it. Assuming the regional panel signs off on it, Inslee says he doesn’t think it will lead to much delay in distributing it to people in the West.
He says he doesn’t anticipate issuing a directive that people must be vaccinated, once one is available.
Inslee also had sharp words Tuesday for officials in Idaho who refuse to mandate masks in response to a surge of Covid cases.
He referred to reports that some Idaho hospitals have sent or may have to send patients to other states because they’ve run of bed space. He mentioned the vote last week by the Panhandle Health District Board to rescind a mask mandate for Kootenai County.
“Instead of increasing the common sense measures that we know work to reduce the pandemic, they went backwards and removed the mask mandate. I heard a comment, he says he just didn’t think Covid was real. I mean, what planet are they living on?” Inslee said.
On Monday, the Coeur d’Alene City Council adopted a mask mandate for the city.
Inslee says Washington hospitals will accept Idaho patients, if they are asked.
The governor said Washington has not and probably would not consider asking Idaho residents to quarantine for a period of time when they enter the Evergreen State.