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caption: Gov. Jay Inslee squared off with President Trump during a call between the president and governors on the coronavirus coordination efforts.
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Gov. Jay Inslee squared off with President Trump during a call between the president and governors on the coronavirus coordination efforts.
Credit: AP

Washington stay home order extended past May 4, some elective surgeries can resume

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday confirmed that his statewide stay-at-home order would be extended beyond its current May 4 end date.

Additionally, Inslee has issued new guidelines for health care providers to resume some non-urgent surgical procedures.

"A week ago, I said that I did not expect that the entirety of our 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' measure could be lifted on May 4," Inslee said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference. "Today I'm confirming that based on the data and science, that that is the case."

Inslee had announced on Monday that restrictions on fishing, hunting, hiking, and golfing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus would be loosened starting May 5. Additionally, the governor last week eased restrictions on residential and public construction projects.

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But Inslee said state officials are not ready to do away with social distancing mandates altogether come May 5. The details of a new extension to the stay-at-home order were not immediately clear, however.

"The fundamental principle we're following is, let's just do this once and get it over with," Inslee said.

"One way to look at it — it's much better to do something 100% at one time, then have the sacrifice of 90% twice. And that guides our decision-making in this very difficult challenge that we have today."

Inslee pointed to a potential domino effect when it comes to people leaving home, even with seemingly limited social interactions.

"Even if you have perfect social distancing at a particular event, or site, or business ... the mere fact that you're traveling around enables you to have more physical interactions," he said. "When you drive somewhere, you stop at the gas station, you talk to people. You go to your sister's house and talk to people — you stop at a different place."

Inslee presented data indicating that the transmission of the coronavirus in King County has been suppressed significantly since early March.

At that time, epidemiologists calculated that a single person with the virus was likely to infect four others. Now, because of social distancing, a single person is believed to infect roughly one other person, signaling that the curve of new infections is flattening.

But officials have repeatedly stressed that eliminating social restrictions would cause that progress to reverse course.

"That's good in the sense that the numbers would not grow over time," Inslee said. "But neither would they shrink. And the problem is that we have only achieved this level by very vigorous social distancing."

The governor outlined metrics in five key areas, which will guide any social distancing rollbacks: Disease activity, diagnostic testing availability, contact tracing, risk to vulnerable populations, and the status of the health care system.

Inslee also said officials are also weighing the possibility of reopening the state, region by region, and that they're reviewing Covid-19 outbreak data from multiple sources daily, including the Institute for Disease Modeling and the Institute for Health Metrics.

Inslee on Wednesday also issued new guidelines for the restarting of non-urgent surgeries.

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The new guidance clarifies that clinicians should assess the potential harm of delaying a procedure, by considering whether a patient's condition is "causing significant pain, significant dysfunction in their daily life or work, or is either progressing, or at risk to progress."

Inslee is expected to give more details on Friday about next phase of reopening the state.