Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, speaks during Gov. Jay Inslee’s online press conference Tuesday. Screenshot

Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, speaks during Gov. Jay Inslee’s online press conference Tuesday. Screenshot

State to deploy brigade of ‘contact tracers’ to track virus

Force of 1,371 including National Guard will assist local health districts statewide.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said the state is ready to deploy a “very highly trained” brigade of men and women to help local health districts contact individuals sickened with coronavirus and track down others who they may have infected.

Inslee said this force of 1,371 contact tracers will be critical to the state’s ability to “box in” and defeat the COVID virus which as of Tuesday had claimed 962 lives in Washington.

Until there’s a vaccine, contact tracing is key to the state’s ability to lift itself completely out of lockdown as it allows the state to get a better handle on who gets sick and how the virus is spread, he said.

Combined with increased testing statewide and extensive quarantine and isolation of those who become ill, they comprise what Inslee said is the next stage in the state’s effort to safely reboot the economy and revive public life while preventing a resurgence of the deadly virus.

“If successful, it will allow us to open up our economy,” Inslee said.

The governor issued a statewide stay-home order March 23 which led to closing of schools, shuttering of nonessential businesses and banning of large gatherings.

Though the order is still in effect, the state has begun a phased reopening, allowing for construction, car sales, golfing, car washes, drive-in religious services, curbside retail pick-up and access to outdoor recreation to begin again.

The next phase, which is expected no earlier than June 1, will bring a return of some restaurant dining and limited outdoor camping as well as opening of barber shops and beauty salons, and restarting of manufacturing and new construction.

Waivers have been granted to eight rural counties enabling them to enter the second phase now. Inslee on Monday released guidance for restaurants to offer dining. Among the rules is a requirement that customers log their names, phone numbers and email addresses.

If a customer or employee becomes ill, this will help in tracing down those who may have been exposed to that person, Inslee said. He stressed the information will remain private and cannot be sold or used by the restaurant in any fashion.

The 1,371 contact tracers, who will be available by the end of the week, should be more than adequate for existing needs, Inslee said. This includes 630 local and state health professionals, 390 employees of the state Department of Licensing and 351 members of the Washington National Guard.

“It is a unique mission for us,” said Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the National Guard who joined Inslee on Tuesday.

If someone tests positive, the hope is that within 24 hours they will receive a phone call from their local health district or state Department of Health with advice on isolating. And within 48 hours those with whom they’ve been in contact can be traced and, similarly, provided information on quarantining themselves.

Inslee emphasized that contact tracers have been screened and signed confidentiality agreements. When they call, they will not ask about one’s immigration or marital status nor will they ask for a Social Security number. If you get a call, they won’t tell you how they got your name. In other words, they won’t say who tested positive.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Woman shot, killed by officers in Redmond

The woman had called 911 and reported that someone was trying to kill her. Police state she confronted officers with a handgun.

Should state cover school bus costs if there are no riders?

With funding tied to getting students to school, districts are uncertain how much money they’ll receive.

Pexel Images
Two patients contracted COVID-19 while at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland

A press release from the hospital states it has contacted 100 employees that had various levels of exposure, and that the direct source in this case is unclear

Virtual town halls coming up for unincorporated King County

Events throughout September and October via Zoom will cater to different areas of the region.

A view of the Palmer Fire, located seven miles southwest of Oroville in north central Washington. Source: InciWeb
Antifa isn’t starting Washington wildfires

Online conspiracy theories are spreading as the West Coast burns.

A plane drops fire retardant on the Palmer Mountain Fire last week. The fire is listed as 84 percent contained, and fully lined. Laura Knowlton/Sound Publishing staff photo
Threat multiplier: How climate change, coronavirus and weather are scorching WA

Dry summer conspired with the pandemic and a wind storm.

Amazon adds more office space to Bellevue, now as many new jobs as HQ2

The office space for an additional 10,000 jobs, making it 25,000 coming to downtown, is expected to complete in 2023.

Constantine announces King County climate action plan

Plots an example of decreased stormwater pollution, urban flooding prevention, immigrant connections

The YMCA of Greater Seattle opened its King County branches to provide child care centers dedicated to serving the families of essential workers. Courtesy photo
COVID continues to whittle away at child care in Washington

It’s estimated that 25% of Washington child care facilities have closed since the pandemic began.

Ferguson sues agencies over archive relocation decision

“Decision to close the National Archives in Seattle has far-reaching impacts across the Northwest.”

TRIO participants at their academic awards reception, Spring 2019. Courtesy Bellevue College
$1.47 million grant will support students at Bellevue college

The grant has been a part of the college since 2001, and this year will help students struggling with online learning