Washington State has joined a number of other states across the country with Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order prohibiting many businesses and all gatherings for at least two weeks.
Inslee announced the order during an address Monday night. Chief among the order’s stipulations was a ban on all gatherings, both public and private of any size, while also closing businesses both deemed non-essential and not able to offer remote working options for employees.
(See a complete list of all essential businesses here: https://bit.ly/3agPI7s)
The order is meant to promote social distancing practices — generally, keeping 6 feet away from others — that had been encouraged in past weeks to stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the global spread of novel coronavirus. As of the address, Inslee said more than 2,000 Washingtonians have contracted the disease, with likely more undiagnosed, and more than 100 had died following diagnosis.
“It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said in his address.
He said the order builds on “unprecedented” steps the state has previously taken in closing schools, restaurants and entertainment venues and putting increasing limits on the size of gatherings.
The order does allow for individuals to be out of their homes for critical needs such as going to grocery stores, doctor’s offices and getting gas. Insee mentioned that restaurants forced to close last week can continue with takeout and delivery service, and noted that outside activity such as hikes or gardening were still allowed, as long as social distancing practices are adhered to.
Inslee said the social distancing was “the only weapon” against coronavirus, “and we have proven that it can work, but only if we actually use it.” Even with prior restrictions put into place last week the governor said he had heard “from health professionals, local officials and others” that the guidelines were not being followed.
Inslee said that essential businesses would be based largely on federal guidelines, which included emergency services, healthcare industries, critical manufacturing, childcare providers, food and agriculture, transportation, financial services, defense industries and critical local government operations like courts.
Inslee also said the media would continue to operate, noting their “critical” service for informing the public about the outbreak.
While the shuttering of non-essential businesses would be effective 48 hours from Inslee’s signing of the order, it placed an immediate ban of all gatherings for all “social, spiritual and recreational purposes” — he named beach parties, pickup basketball and sleepovers among the banned activities.
Though he expected Washingtonians to comply with the order, “make no mistake, this order is enforceable by law,” Inslee said. The order would be in effect for at least two weeks from its signing.
“This is a very difficult choice,” Inslee remarked, acknowledging the economic impacts of businesses shuttered for weeks. He said the state was continuing to look at ways to mitigate those impacts, referencing measures including a moratorium on evictions and expanded unemployment insurance opportunities announced last week.
“We want to get back to normal as soon as possible,” Inslee said, “and the fastest way to get back to normal is to hit this hard.”
“Schools will reopen. Weddings will happen. Factories will start again,” Inslee said, “and you will be able to toast the end of this at your favorite hangout as soon as possible, because we are hitting this hard.”