SEATTLE — President Donald Trump’s negative remarks about Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and the nationwide response to the novel coronavirus pandemic “haven’t knocked us off our game at all,” Inslee said Saturday at the site of a field hospital the U.S. Army is setting up inside a Seattle event center.
“None of us here are being distracted by the background noise that’s come out of the White House,” he said at a news conference in CenturyLink Field Event Center with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other local leaders. “Our job is too important to save constituents and neighbors from this deadly virus.”
The Army is deploying 300 soldiers to the site to staff the field hospital next to CenturyLink Field with at least 148 beds. The site is expected to be able to start accepting patients within three days of all equipment arriving and to be fully operational within a week. Behind the speakers at the news conference inside the vast, virtually empty event center, soldiers in camouflage fatigues and boots conferred about where to place beds and work stations.
Washington officials Friday reported 516 additional cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus, including 28 additional deaths (a significantly larger number than in previous days). In total, the state has reported 2,723 cases and 175 deaths since the outbreak began. Public health experts have warned a surge in patients could overwhelm the state’s hospital system.
A field hospital also already has been set up on an athletic field in Shoreline, and the state has conducted assessments for facilities in Pierce and Snohomish counties.
“This is starting in Seattle,” Inslee said. “This capacity is going to grow statewide. We need additional hospital beds, additional ICU beds, additional ventilators across the state of Washington.”
The governor has clashed with Trump in recent days over the federal government’s response to the crisis, trading comments and tweets as Inslee has urged Trump to provide states with more aid and equipment.
The president lashed out during a news conference Friday, saying he had advised Vice President Mike Pence not to call Inslee. Trump implied federal aid might be made contingent on how governors behave.
“They’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative of the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA,” Trump said. “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting time with him.’ If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”
Asked about those remarks Saturday, Inslee said emergency work in Washington would continue, undeterred.
“Insults are not going to stop us,” he said, praising the Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Pence, whom the governor has had “good discussions with.”
FEMA has allocated $100 million to the military to augment medical services to combat the pandemic in Washington. The new field hospital in Seattle is part of that effort.
At Saturday’s news conference, FEMA Region 10 Administrator Mike O’Hare made a point to ensure his office would support Washington. Region 10 is based in Bothell and also covers Alaska, Idaho and Oregon.
“The health and safety of the American people and especially the people of Washington state are my top priority,” O’Hare said. “I’ve told Gov. Inslee and Mayor Durkan and many others in no uncertain terms, ‘If you need something, tell us.’”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who also has clashed with Trump, told a radio station that medical equipment vendors “with whom we’ve procured contracts — they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan.”
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