Inslee orders Washington residents to "Stay home, stay safe" -- Updated
Last updated 3/28/2020 at 6:13pm
OLYMPIA -- In a televised address this evening, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he would be signing a statewide order requiring everyone to stay home in order to attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and the disease it carries COVID-19.
Inslee said the order would last for two weeks, but could be extended. As of today, the disease that has swept the world has resulted in 2,221 confirmed cases in Washington resulting in 111 deaths.
"The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save," Inslee said.
The proclamation will require every Washington resident to stay home unless they need to pursue an essential activity, ban all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes and close all businesses except essential businesses. Business closures must happen 48 hours after Inslee signs the order.
People may continue to go outside as long as they remain at least six feet from each other. Grocery stores, doctor's offices and other essential businesses will remain open.
In a post-address press conference, Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown ticked off a list of categories essential businesses would fall under: Health care and public health, emergency services, food production and agriculture, energy and infrastructure, transportation and logistics, communications and information technology, financial services and manufacturers who are integral part of supplying the health care system. Workers in these businesses will be asked to conduct their activity with health, safety and their well being paramount.
"Simply carry out the activity with as much safety and social distancing as possible," Brown said.
Inslee's Chief of Staff David Postman said the order is not a shelter in place order, which he said is described as pertaining to natural disasters, hurricanes and active shooter situations.
"That's not where we're at," Postman said.
Postman said mitigation measures previously put in place -- closing schools and universities, bars, restaurants, event activities along with restricting gatherings to no more than 50 people -- had shown some effectiveness when looking at original projections. But reports over the weekend of crowded beaches and coastal cities reporting out-of-town visitors overrunning their facilities led them to realize a number of Washingtonians were still not taking the situation seriously.
Washington Secretary of Health Dr. John Weissman said residents should not be traveling about the state in search of activities or to visit with friends or family. Social distancing plays and important part in slowing the spread of COVID-19, without which Weissman said projections show that one infected could then infect 2-3 others.
"Without social distancing this just keeps spreading like wildfire," Weissman said.
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said Inslee's order is enforceable under the Revised Code of Washington (43.06.220 Section 5) as gross misdemeanor only if that person had knowledge of the order prior to be contacted by law enforcement. Batiste said law enforcement's approach would not be about handing out citations but about educating the public that following the order was about personal safety and the safety of others. He added they would disband gatherings if needed.
"You're helping us help them (others) stay safe," he added.
Weissman said officials will be looking at case counts to see if the order is being effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. That data won't materialize for another couple of weeks as someone infected today would have up to 14 days before symptoms of the disease began to appear.
Weismann also said the order was needed to reduce potential stresses on the health care system, protecting workers critical to the recovery effort.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.