by Carolyn Bick
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a two-week-minimum stay-at-home order for the state. While all gatherings, regardless of size, are banned effective immediately, non-essential businesses have 48 hours to close. Banned gatherings include weddings and funerals.
Speaking at a televised evening press conference on March 23, Inslee explained that the “difficult choice” is meant to try to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, throughout the state. Inslee had issued movement and business restrictions earlier in the month. The stay-at-home order comes one day after President Trump announced he is sending the National Guard to render aid in Washington State, at Inslee’s discretion.
Since the outbreak of the virus in the state, there have been 110 deaths out of 2,221 known cases.
“The rapid growth in the number of cases has put our state really in a race against time. We need to grow hospital capacity, or else face an even greater public health emergency,” Inslee said. “The more of us who stay home, the fewer of us who will be infected by COVID-19, and the more lives that will be saved.”
Despite Washington State appearing to be the epicenter of the outbreak of the virus in the United States, Inslee follows the actions of several other states‘ governors in declaring an emergency shelter-in-place order.
Inslee said that non-essential businesses have 48 to close, but that certain businesses have been deemed essential. These include emergency services, childcare services, transportation, and certain government operations, like courts, as well as the media, food and agriculture services, and medical professionals, among others. Restaurants are allowed to remain open, but are encouraged to focus on delivery.
Inslee said that he expects all Washingtonians to obey the order, but said that the order is legally enforceable. He did not elaborate on the statement, but the King County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release stating that Inslee had not called on law enforcement to actively enforce the order.
“Instead, if our deputies see banned gatherings, we will take an educational approach and remind people of the current restrictions issued by the Governor,” the press release reads. “It is our hope that people will simply self-regulate their behavior and stay at home to preserve public health and safety.”
While Inslee said that it’s okay to go outside, as long as people practice safe social distancing, he said that Washingtonians should not go outside, unless absolutely necessary.
He acknowledged the hardship many families will face, because of this, but also said the state is attempting to soften the economic blow, referencing plans he announced last week. He also encouraged Washingtonians with questions to visit the state’s coronavirus site.
Inslee said that the difficulties faced will not just be financial: many people will feel the emotional impacts of being alone, and he encouraged families and friends to check in on one another.
Inslee also emphasized that people should not “make a run” on the grocery stores, in order to keep the shelves stocked for everyone, particularly for healthcare workers and seniors. He said that if every Washingtonian maintains normal shopping habits, there will be no shortages.
Inslee ended the conference on an upbeat note, stating with surety that “this is temporary.”
“Schools will reopen. Weddings will happen. Factories will start again. And you’ll be able to toast the end of this at your favorite hangout, as soon as possible, because we are hitting this hard. But every Washingtonian needs to enlist themselves in this tumultuous struggle, if we are to win,” Inslee said. “We need every Washingtonian to be thoughtful, and calm, and compassionate, knowing for certain that we can get through this together.”