'Stay at home' to fight coronavirus decreed in Washington state after sunny weekend
Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all Washingtonians to stay home unless they must leave for vital activities, such as buying groceries, seeking medical attention, or reporting for work at an essential business.
The unprecedented action compels all nonessential businesses to temporarily close brick-and-mortar stores, and will also ban all public and private gatherings, including weddings and funerals.
The new state proclamation comes in the wake of several other states, including California, New York, and Oregon taking similar action.
Additionally, the cities of Edmonds and Everett, and Yakima County, announced municipal-level directives for residents to stay home over the weekend.
Inslee's stay-at-home order is effective immediately for banning all gatherings and will take effect for business closures 48 hours after the proclamation is signed. The order will last for at least two weeks.
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"Now this is a very difficult choice," Inslee said during a public address Monday. "And I make this difficult choice knowing it will add to the economic and family hardship many in our state are already feeling as we try to slow and turn back and this pandemic."
Inslee said the new order is aimed at resuming normal life as quickly as possible. "We do not want this lingering intrusion in our lives. And the fastest way to get back to normal is to hit this hard."
Many have anticipated the announcement of a statewide shelter-in-place order for Washington since last week. But state officials say the stay-at-home order is different, drawing the distinction that it is considered safe to go outside under the new order. Properly distanced walks, bike rides, and gardening activities, for instance, are still permitted.
"We consider these things essential activity too, for everyone's physical and mental health," Inslee said.
A previous statewide order enacted on March 16 temporarily suspended in-person services at various nonessential businesses such as restaurants, hair salons, and fitness centers until midnight on March 31.
Other retailers had been allowed to resume operations, if they implemented plans to keep patrons apart from each other. Leaders have repeatedly urged people to keep six feet of distance between them in public spaces, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Until now, state officials have largely leaned on what might be considered an honor system to uphold social distancing measures. But large groups have continued to congregate outdoors in parks and on beaches, despite this guidance.
"We are still seeing people behaving as if this virus was not a mortal threat to people in this state," Inslee stated during a press conference last Friday.
The governor went on to say then that although some had ignored earlier restrictions on large gatherings, he believed social responsibility would ultimately prevail.
Inslee asserted, however, that official action and enforcement could be further applied if necessary. He reiterated those warnings again on Monday.
"Now, we expect everyone in our state to comply with these orders voluntarily," he said. "For the simple fact ... everyone knows that all of our loved ones are at risk here. But make no mistake — this order is enforceable by law and can be enforced."
Officials are also urging people to avoid impulse-hoarding groceries and other essentials throughout the stay-at-home order.