Gov. Inslee announces new initiative to expand language access to COVID-19 information

Camp Murray, WA — Yesterday, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a memo (pdf) to state agencies detailing a new language access plan (pdf) that will ensure state agencies can provide vital COVID-19 information to individuals with disabilities and with limited English proficiency.

“Information is one of the best tools we have in this fight against COVID-19,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “But not every community has equal access to information. This plan helps ensure every Washingtonian is better able to stay safe and healthy by making sure our state agencies are providing information that is culturally-relevant and accessible.”

The plan, which was developed in coordination with the state’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center (JIC), provides a streamlined new process for agencies to translate vital information related to COVID-19 into the top 37 languages spoken in Washington state. These top languages are spoken by at least 5% of the state population or 1,000 people based on 2016 Office of Financial Management (OFM) data. The plan also provides guidance for state agencies to establish telephonic interpretation services which allows real-time translation over the phone.

“A number of communities are disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. One way we can reduce that injustice is by meeting our obligation to communicate in ways that are accessible and culturally and linguistically relevant,” said Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

The state Department of Health in coordination with the state’s JIC has made COVID-19 health information available in at least 26 languages and has produced an American Sign Language COVID-19 video series.

For those with questions about COVID-19, the state has also established a hotline at 1-800-525-0127. For interpretative services, press # when they answer and say your language. The hotline is open from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. For questions about your own health, COVID-19 testing, or testing results, please contact your health care provider.