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National Guard to support food banks during virus crisis

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Momo Nikaido paints a mural that reads "wash hands, be kind," Wednesday, April 1, 2020, on boards over windows of the Capitol Lounge, which is owned by her father in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Most stores and businesses in the area are closed or only offering take-out food as a result of the outbreak of the new coronavirus, and state-wide stay-at-home orders from government officials. (AP Photo/Ted S.
Momo Nikaido paints a mural that reads "wash hands, be kind," Wednesday, April 1, 2020, on boards over windows of the Capitol Lounge, which is owned by her father in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Most stores and businesses in the area are closed or only offering take-out food as a result of the outbreak of the new coronavirus, and state-wide stay-at-home orders from government officials. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — A look at virus-related developments in Washington:

NATIONAL GUARD

On Wednesday, 130 Washington National Guardsmen are preparing to support food banks across the state, to include in King, Pierce, Chelan and Franklin Counties, Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the Washington Military Department, said the hope is to have soldiers and airmen in place starting Friday, and that they will be used to fill critical staffing needs. Shagren said that many food banks are operated by volunteers who fall into the at-risk categories, so members of the National Guard will ensure food banks have the personnel necessary to keep them up and running and ensure they’re able to continue to provide food to those who need it. National Guard members will be doing doing everything from unloading trucks to packing boxes and distributing food, she said.

STATE BUYS A HOSPITAL

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services has purchased a former nursing home in Seattle for $13.5 million to house patients who test negative for COVID-19 and can receive care there, officials said. The agency said Wednesday that it bought Paramount Rehabilitation and Nursing in the city’s Central District, which was closed in February. It will house up to 165 patients from local hospitals. The department in March transitioned nearly 400 patients out of hospitals across Washington and into nursing homes, assisted living facilities or other settings of their choice, officials said. “Increasing hospital bed capacity is crucial during this crisis,” Aging and Long-Term Support Administration Assistant Secretary Bill Moss said in a news release. DSHS is currently working to find a provider to operate the facility and hopes to have it opened by early May.

HOSPITAL SYSTEM-MASKS

UW Medicine, which runs Harborview Medical Center and hospitals and clinics around Seattle, has announced changes to its mask policy after employees objected to its directive that disallowed or discouraged health care workers from using surgical masks when they were not interacting with coronavirus patients. The Seattle Times reports that the changes were conveyed in a note to employees Wednesday. “Last night, we began a roll-out of extended-use masking for health care workers at UW Medicine. We began in the Emergency Departments with plans to then expand to other clinical areas over the next 24 hours,” the health system wrote. The message said the health care systems’ leaders understood that employees felt uncomfortable coming to work without additional personal protective equipment.

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