Jay Inslee Extends Coronavirus Closures Through May, Outlines Phased Plan To Reopen
Updated May 4, 2020, 1:50 p.m. PT
BY LIZ BRAZILE, PAIGE BROWNING, KARI PLOG & AUSTIN JENKINS
Washington’s “stay home, stay healthy” order will extend until at least May 31. On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the new time-frame and that businesses will be able to open over four phases.
The state is now in phase one, and won’t reach phase four for at least 9 weeks.
“I would like to tell you that we would all be able to make reservations on June 1, but I cannot … as the conditions allow,” Inslee said.
Inslee said that by mid-May, retail stores will be able to offer curb-side pickup, and carwashes, auto sales, and drive-in spiritual services can occur.
Phase two will allow a few customers at a time at retail, salon and restaurant businesses. Phase three will allow non-essential travel and events under 50 people, and phase four allow public events.
Inslee says there will be three weeks, at least, between each phase. The beginning of each new phase will depend on data on new infections and hospitalizations, and won’t be tied to specific dates at this time.
And he warned the fight against COVID-19 has not been won.
He added that smaller counties with less of a COVID-19 impact may be permitted to reopen earlier than larger ones or those considered to be hot spots.
The plan gives 10 counties the option to ease restrictions sooner, pending approval from the state Department of Health. Those counties have “extremely low numbers of cases” of COVID-19, Inslee said in his address Friday, and they represent less than 3 percent of the population.
“I am very mindful of regional differences and impacts across the state with regard to the spread of COVID-19 and our response,” Inslee said. “Not every part of our state is experiencing this pandemic in the same way.”
Counties eligible for variance from state order:
Inslee noted that these counties should expect “broad acceptance” from the health department upon applying for variance, since they were essentially “pre-screened” for eligibility. “I don’t expect that process will take long at all,” he told reporters.
However, Inslee reiterated that “our return to normal will still not look the way they did before this virus hit us until we have pharmaceutical interventions, such as a vaccine.”
Statewide, residents already are experiencing Phase 1 of the gradual march toward normal. Inslee already has lifted some restrictions on low-risk construction projects, some outdoor recreation and elective surgeries. Completing this phase will involve developing protocols with industries to allow automobile sales, car washes, curbside pickup for retail and other low-impact commerce. Those guidelines are expected to be finalized mid-May, the governor said Friday.
Scientists at the forefront vaccine-production efforts have estimated that it will likely take between 12 to 18 months for a licensed vaccine to be ready.
The governor has faced mounting criticism in recent weeks from some groups demanding he reopen the economy, as social distancing mandates persist with no hard end in sight.
“We are not wrestling with whether to lean toward the economy, or to public health,” Inslee said on Friday. “They are one. They are mutually dependent.”
Inslee pointed to numbers showing the U.S. COVID-19 death toll has surpassed the number of American fatalities during the Vietnam War.
“Some people have argued that this threat is exaggerated — that the death rate doesn’t warrant a vigorous response,” he said. “To those people, I ask they consider for one moment what it is like to lose a loved one to this vicious and somewhat mysterious killer.”
Inslee went on to outline four phases of reopening the state, the progression of which will be determined by data on the status of Washington’s COVID-19 epidemic. Each phase will still require social distancing and precautions, including the use of personal protective gear for certain industries.
This is essentially where we are currently:
- Low-risk construction projects that were previously underway may restart.
- Socially distanced outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, golfing, and day use of state parks may resume starting May 5.
- Retailers may offer curbside pick-up services, car sales, and car washes.
- Drive-in spiritual services with one car per household are permitted.
- Large gatherings are still prohibited — even those that may ostensibly be social distancing-friendly.
- Small gatherings of five or less could be permitted.
- Outdoor activities not permitted in Phase 1, such as camping, could resume.
- New construction projects could begin.
- In-store retail with proper safety precautions could restart.
- Restaurants could resume in-house services at 50% capacity, with parties no larger than five to a table.
- Pet care and grooming services could resume.
- Gatherings of 50 or less, including sports activities could resume.
- Nonessential travel could be permitted.
- Restaurants could resume in-house services at 75% capacity, and bars at 25%. Nightclubs and entertainment venues would remain closed.
- Movie theaters, gyms, pools, and other recreational facilities could reopen at 50% capacity.
- Retailers, museums, libraries, and government buildings could reopen — telework is still recommended where possible.
- The majority of public interactions would be able to restart.
- Gatherings of more than 50 people could resume, but with social distancing still in practice.
- Nightclubs, concerts, and large sporting events will be permitted to resume.
Liz Brazile and Paige Browning report for N3 member station KUOW Seattle. Kari Plog reports of N3 member station KNKX in Seattle-Tacoma. Austin Jenkins is Olympia correspondent for the public media Northwest News Network.
Washington State employees will no longer be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination in order to keep their jobs. Continue Reading Washington ends COVID-19 vaccine requirements for state employees
Surrounded by gun reform advocates, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed three new gun control bills Tuesday morning, including a ban on the import and sale of high capacity and semiautomatic firearms. Continue Reading Washington governor signs new gun bills into law, including ‘assault weapons’ ban
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., leads the panel during an organizational meeting for the 118th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.… Continue Reading Washington’s McMorris Rodgers pushing for more hydropower, questioning ‘Big Tech’