OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday announced the reopening of non-urgent medical and dental services.

“We believe now, with appropriate safety measures, we can start the process of getting back to non-urgent medical and dental care,” Inslee said at a Monday press conference.

Medical and dental providers must comply with new health and safety protocols, Inslee said noting the level of allowed increased activity depends on the ability to be prepared for a potential COVID onslaught should it bite us again.

“This virus remains a threat to our way of life. We know PPE (personal protective equipment) and test capability remain challenges,” Inslee said.

“We think of this as a pacing item — how we are going to pace ourselves to open our economy. One of the things we’ll be looking at is PPE capacity and contact tracing. We’re going to see how these impact our plans going forward,” Inslee said. “We’re glad we can take this first step right now.”

The plan was developed, Inslee said, with many health care partners, including nurses, surgeons, pediatricians, dentists, community health clinics, and hospitals. He said health care providers worked together to come up with the new protocols.

Statewide, Inslee said his team feels good about the number of ICU beds as well as the number of ventilators in the state, allowing a move forward at this time.

“Under this plan, each medical and dental provider will need to meet certain criteria to be able to be doing non-urgent procedures. Each provider evaluates their readiness to begin and needs to maintain standards to continue to see patients,” Inslee said.

One of the most important requirements for any provider is they have the most appropriate personal protective equipment for the workers and patients, he said, and if providers cannot get the equipment, they will have to delay until they can.

Inslee said the state has provided a system to health care providers to help decide if they have the necessary PPE.

“We’ll be providing guidance on this. It basically indicates when you have enough to justify moving forward,” he said. “We recognize it is still difficult to purchase certain types of PPE. It’s possible there are providers that will have to adjust their reopening plans based on these limitations. That’s why it is critical these providers use good judgment in expanding access to elective care.”

The state is doing everything humanly possible to increase PPE options, Inslee said, noting the state has been very determined and diligent in asking the federal government to be more effective in providing this needed equipment.

Some of the additional protocols include limiting the number of people in the waiting room, physical distancing, temperature checks, frequent hand washing, and hygiene. Inslee calls this good commonsense and medically necessary right now.

“Another reason we can open more of the healthcare system now is the completion of the state’s centralized hospital reporting system which we call, WA-Health. This allows for real-time tracking of capacity is our state hospitals to ensure the state can be ready in case there is new COVID-19 activity,” Inslee said.

Ian Dunn: 664-7157

dunn@wenatcheeworld.com