Retired Navy Vice Admiral takes new role as head of Washington’s health care response team

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed retired Navy Vice Admiral Raquel C. Bono as the state director for COVID-19 Health System Response Management.

The former chief executive officer and director for the Defense Health Agency was brought in to advise the governor on matters related to the state’s healthcare system, determining strategies and actions to be taken in order to ensure the state can handle the influx of patients as the virus spreads.

Bono spent 36 years in the military and oversaw the DHA through a number of changes, including the consolidation of military hospitals and clinics across all branches which brought them all under the DHA’s purview.

In a Tuesday media briefing via web conference, Bono outlined the steps she has taken since accepting the role. She has already met with medical leaders to understand what kind of capacity the state’s hospitals have and how the state might be able to step in to augment that. Bono is also exploring the feasibility of field hospitals and other alternate sites to help fight the coronavirus.

On the positive side, Bono said she was impressed with the leadership exhibited at the highest levels of state government as well as the residents of the state, many of whom she believes are taking the situation seriously.

“I see them very engaged and attentive and also working very hard to do the right thing,” Bono said.

Bono said the next couple of weeks should provide officials with a clearer understanding of the reality of the virus’ spread in Washington as Gov. Inslee’s “Stay home, stay healthy” protocols take effect.

The state should see cases rise as testing ramps up and results come in, but she does believe the executive orders put in place will help turn the tide of the spread.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten past it,” Bono said. “I think we need to be very vigilant.”

On the subject of testing, Bono called it one of her highest priorities going forward. Testing as many residents as possible and getting the results back as quickly as possible will also be imperative in getting symptomatic folks inside, recuperating away from the general public until the virus abates.

Bono also hopes to have better data on hand to not only see where the virus is spreading, but also getting as much information as possible to the public. She shared in the frustration that data had been collected at disparate sites but hasn’t yet been brought under one roof.

“A lot of people have been collecting data, and part of my interest and responsibility is to see how we can collate that and share that,” Bono said.