Transcript: Jay Inslee on "Face the Nation," March 8, 2020

Inslee says state considering "mandatory measures" to address coronavirus

The following is a transcript of an interview with Washington Governor Jay Inslee that aired Sunday, March 8, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, joins us this morning from Seattle. Good morning to you, governor.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: Good morning. Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've got more than 100 cases in your state. Starbucks reported one of them in downtown Seattle just a few days ago, four nursing homes now affected. Why haven't you been able to contain the virus?

GOV. INSLEE: Well, look, this is a challenging thing that the whole world is now recognizing, and what we're doing here is the things I think our state should be doing. We're mourning our losses, which have been significant. We are acting based on science and a- and a commitment for all of us to be soldiers in this battle. And we're- we are doing that. We've having citizens who are doing what they need to do, which is we're doing teleworking so that we can reduce people being exposed. People are staying home from work when they're ill. And all systems of government, I think, are working as diligently as possible to be very aggressive against this potentially fatal disease. So those are the things are going on. But we should not minimize the task before us giving the transmission. Every single social contact between humans anywhere in the world today is a potential exposure. So we now are making scientific decisions about making sure we get as much testing as possible, making sure we restock our medical supply chain and making sure that we make good decisions about minimizing those social contacts which we're doing in the state of Washington.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is supposed to be state led. Do you have all the support from the federal government that you need?

GOV. INSLEE: Well, certainly there were troubles at the beginning of this with the testing protocols. But right now, I believe the agencies of the federal government are being very diligent and helping our state. They're restocking our stockpile of protective equipment and medical supplies. We've had hundreds of thousands of new pieces of supply that come in the last couple of days. That's been very helpful. We need the federal government to really accelerate the production of these- the ability to do these tests. And we will need the federal government to certify a new system of providing these tests to really ramp up the capability of the independent labs, which ultimately we're going to need. We've- I'm very glad we started our testing protocol very early to develop our own state capacity. It's gone up by about twentyfold in the last several weeks. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But--

GOV. INSLEE: But to do nationally what we need, we really need to get the private sector labs and we need the federal government to help in that regard. I think they are moving in that direction. And we need the federal government to help really vitalize and mobilize our manufacturing capacity to do protective equipment--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

GOV. INSLEE:  --and we need to do what we did in World War II to mobilize that supply chain.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are at the epicenter of this. I mean, your state is in particular. You saw the dramatic actions taken in Italy with quarantining a quarter of the country. China obviously is an authoritarian state, so it can do things democracies wouldn't. But I mean, you are in the middle of a major industry in a big city of Seattle. Have you contemplating- contemplated shutting it down?

GOV. INSLEE: Well, we don't use that kind of language, but we certainly are contemplating requirements for what we call social distancing in the public health realm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But nothing like what Italy has--

GOV. INSLEE: Which basically means--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --just done overnight. 

GOV. INSLEE: We are contemplating, in fact, I'm going to a meeting in about an hour about this subject right now. We are looking at extending what are voluntary decisions right now. And we've asked a whole host of communities to consider whether you really need to have your events right now, and they are being canceled. Comic Con has been postponed. We have a number of school closures. We are contemplating some next steps, particularly to protect our vulnerable po- populations and our nursing homes and the like. And we are looking to determine whether mandatory measures are required. So far, the public is responding very well by making sure that they listen to public health requests. People are now staying home when they're sick. They have telecommuted and teleworked very, very effectively. And so that's working. But we may have to go to the next step. And we are- we are thinking about those seriously to get ahead of this curve. The difficult decisions I think for the public--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The next step means quarantine?

GOV. INSLEE: Not necessarily quarantine, but reducing the number of social activities that are going on, and we need to make decisions about that looking forward, looking what the modelling suggests the infection rate will be going forward. And this will be or could be hard for the public--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

GOV. INSLEE: --because they may not have seen the full wave yet. We need to anticipate that wave, get ahead of it. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. 

GOV. INSLEE: We are thinking about stronger measures right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your local paper, The Seattle Times, reports that even before this outbreak of the virus, your local health systems were pretty taxed. In fact, understaffed, underfunded, and they pinned some blame on you as governor for declining requests for more public health network funding. Do you shoulder some of the blame here?

GOV. INSLEE: Well, look, our- our national public health system nationally could always have used additional help, but we've had a lot of things to do in the state of Washington, including financing our schools. We were on a Constitutional obligation to generate about eight billion dollars for our schools. And we've done that successfully. Our public health system has remained stable while I have been governor. But look, all of us can say generating more support for public health nationwide. We're going to look forward to those issues. I'm pleased that my legislature followed my lead and has now appropriated 100 million dollars to attack this problem. We're pleased that Congress has acted. And we're pleased that the federal government is helping us right now. We had a good meeting with Vice President Pence here and his agencies now are responding to our- our requests--

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. 

GOV. INSLEE: --and so- and so far, we've had enough tests so far so that everyone--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want- I want to ask you about that because--

GOV. INSLEE: --who has been ordered has it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that's good news. I want to ask you about--

GOV. INSLEE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the vice president's visit because he praised your action. You were very complimentary just now to him. But then the president of the United States had this to say on Friday.

(BEGIN CLIP) 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So I told my- not to be complimentary of the governor because that governor is a snake. Okay,  Inslee. Let me just tell you, we have a lot of problems with the governor.

(END CLIP) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are politics complicating any part of this?

GOV. INSLEE: Well, we're- I really- I really don't care too much what Donald Trump thinks of me. And we just kind of ignore that. It's background noise because we really need to work together, Republicans and Democrats. This is a national crisis. We are doing that effectively, as I've indicated. I've had good meetings with the agency directors.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

GOV. INSLEE: I think that the vice president has been helpful in this regard. So, look, we're focusing on people's health, not on political gamesmanship right now. And that's what we need to do. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. 

GOV. INSLEE: And I feel good about those efforts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Governor Inslee, good luck to you.