Vice President Mike Pence is in Washington state to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee and address the coronavirus outbreak.
His visit comes as the death toll in Washington continues to rise. Washington has the most cases in the U.S., specifically in Kirkland.
Pence said that millions of coronavirus testing kits will be rolled out next week, roughly 5.2 million kits.
He pledged the full support of the Trump administration to Washington state officials and toured the state's emergency response center. Pence called on Americans to refrain from buying masks unless they're sick.
As Pence approached the microphone, he gave "elbow bumps" to dignitaries who flanked the stage, forgoing a typical handshake.
Pence acknowledged that Washington is "on the front lines" of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.
"All of America's hearts are with you," Pence said. He thanked Washington officials for their attention and action to the outbreak.
Pence closed by saying, "We have a ways to go, but we will get there together."
Dr. Robert Redfield, director at the Centers for Disease Control, said the outbreak has reached the level of community transmission, and isolation is the safest way to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Redfield emphasized that risk to the overall public is low.
President Donald Trump appointed Pence to lead the U.S. response to the global coronavirus outbreak last week. Pence is in charge of overseeing the nation’s response and is working with government’s top health authorities, Trump said.
When Pence landed in Washington, he skipped a tradition handshake, electing instead to "elbow bump" Inslee.
Inslee toured sites involved in the state response to the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday. He declared a state of emergency on Saturday, directing agencies to use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to the outbreak.
Inslee said on Wednesday that he spoke with Pence about removing previous federal rules in effect that prohibited testing for people with relatively mild coronavirus symptoms who had not been hospitalized. He said the federal government has since removed these restrictions.
“We now have been given the green light to increase the frequency and protocols under which people can actually be tested. I know people have been frustrated by that," he added.
In an interview with KREM, Inslee said he plans to ask Pence on Thursday for more federal action to still further increase testing capacity.
"We really think in the long-term we will need private business that do this kind of work to add their capacity," Inslee said. "To do that they have to have federal approval through the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC."
He also intends to ask Pence for access to the national reserves of medical equipment.
"We have a state stockpile," he said. "We've been sending thousands of pieces of medical equipment to our hospitals and physicians, and we need that to be replenished by the federal stockpile."
Inslee said he also wants to coordinate public outreach to prevent mixed messages coming from state and federal officials, and explore what sorts of resources and organizational power the military establishment might provide.
"The Department of Defense obviously has enormous assets, and if there are any that we can bring to bear on this, we'd obviously like to do that," he said.
Inslee told KREM that, given Pence's responsiveness so far to the needs of Washingtonians, he's hopeful the state will get what it needs out of Thursday's meeting.
What are coronavirus symptoms?
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization. Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to DOH.
Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.
A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, and what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #