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News >  WA Government

Data-driven former admiral heads state COVID-19 response

UPDATED: Tue., March 24, 2020

Former admiral Raquel Bono is the new Washington director for COVID-19 response.
Former admiral Raquel Bono is the new Washington director for COVID-19 response.

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The new head of Washington’s coronavirus fight describes herself as a military-trained physician who relies on data to determine whether systems are working well.

Retired Admiral Raquel Bono, named recently by Gov. Jay Inslee as the state director for COVID-19 response, told reporters Tuesday she’s still gathering some of that data in her first week on the job. But when she has it, she’ll make sure the public also has access to some key information.

The state Department of Health COVID-19 website lists the number of positive tests and fatalities for each county in the state, but doesn’t break it down by gender or age. Bono said she’s interested in that data, just as some members as the public and the news media have been.

“I want to get to that level of data,” she said. “I want to get as much data in a consumable form. Hopefully we’ll be able to do something before the end of the week.”

She’s trying to quickly get information on test results, hospital capacities and capabilities, and equipment needs. She’s looking at different sources for data and modeling that predict large numbers of cases and where they are most likely to show up in the state.

The state has not yet decided where to deploy the military mobile hospital units it will receive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bono said. Those decisions will be made after state officials know the number of beds each unit has, and what medical personnel will come with them, then work with hospitals to have a picture of where the need is.

Bono received her training in trauma surgery and general surgery in the Navy, and helped set up the joint readiness health systems that brought the different military medical operations together.

After she retired she became a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

The state is trying to reduce the time needed to get results for those who are tested, a delay that in some parts of the state is as long as four days. Those delays usually are a result of sending the tests to laboratories out of state for processing, she said.

“We are looking at different places where they are standing up testing,” Bono said, including private labs in the state with FDA approval to do other types of tests to get faster results.

After a series of meetings since her appointment Sunday, Bono said she’s impressed with leadership being shown by state officials and the hospital system where staff who have taken care of COVID-19 are willing to share their expertise with those who haven’t.

She’s also impressed by the reaction of the Washington communities which seem engaged and “trying very hard to do the right thing,” she said.

It’s too soon to tell if the tide has turned against the rapid increase in positive cases and fatalities, Bono said.

“I don’t want to minimize the gravity of the situation,” she said.

She believes the measures taken by the state so far have had an impact, but to be sure she’ll need more data.

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