Gov. Jay Inslee during a televised news conference on Monday. (TVW)

Gov. Jay Inslee during a televised news conference on Monday. (TVW)

State issues guidance on dental care, medical appointments

Resumption of those practices depends on adequate protective equipment and patient screening.

Gov. Jay Inslee cleared the way May 15 for teeth cleanings, annual physicals and elective surgeries to resume throughout Washington.

The governor issued much-anticipated guidance dentists and medical practitioners must follow. The rules are intended to protect their employees and patients from exposure to coronavirus, which causes the potentially deadly COVID-19.

Inslee, who announced the measures at news conference, described it as “one more step” on the path to reopening the economy and reviving public life, mostly shuttered under a stay-home order issued two months ago to blunt the virus’ spread.

And this latest action came three days after release of a report containing the first concrete measurement of the financial toll wrought by the pandemic.

It shows tax revenues came in $428.5 million below a forecast issued in February. The analysis, compiled by the state’s chief economist, covers collections mainly from March that are reported between April 11 and May 10.

Of the total, about $200 million are taxes the state Department of Revenue is allowing businesses to defer paying due to the economic crisis.

The rest of the lost tax receipts is a direct result of the lockdown of nonessential businesses, professional services and nonurgent medical and dental care, all of which generate sales and business taxes for state coffers.

Car and truck sales plummeted in March with new vehicle registrations falling 63.5%. Tax payments generated by restaurants, bars, and lodging establishments were 35.2% lower than the prior year. Sales of clothing, furniture, sporting goods, toys, books and music all fell by double-digit percentages, according to the monthly Economic and Revenue Update.

However, tax receipts from essential businesses that have not been closed, such as supermarkets and sellers of building supplies and appliances were higher in March than the prior year.

The latest figures align roughly with a preliminary analysis prepared two weeks ago by Steve Lerch, the state’s chief economist. At that time, he suggested revenue collections could be down $756 million through the end of June and nearly $3.8 billion by the end of the current budget in mid-2021.

While the state’s economy will not turnaround quickly, Monday marked a stride forward as Inslee welcomed reopening of dental and medical practices and encouaged residents to not delay treatment they might need or desire.

Among the most critical requirements of his guidance is for each practice to have adequate quantities of appropriate personal protective equipment for workers. Other rules include screening patients and visitors for symptoms of the highly transmissible virus, including taking their temperatures.

Doctors and dentists must implement social-distancing measures and frequently clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces in waiting rooms, offices and treatment areas. They must craft plans of how they could expand or contract services based on whether there’s an outbreak in their community.

Statewide, as of May 15, the cumulative death count was 1,002 among 18,611 cases.


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