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caption: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a news conference on Tuesday during which he announced new restrictions on long-term care facilities to address the growing coronavirus epidemic in the state.
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a news conference on Tuesday during which he announced new restrictions on long-term care facilities to address the growing coronavirus epidemic in the state.
Credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

What Gov. Jay Inslee told his own family about COVID-19

Shortly after announcing his ban on large gatherings in three Washington counties this week, Gov. Jay Inslee took further steps for those in his own life.

“I sent an email to people I love, my uncles … they are of a certain age and have underlying health issues," Inslee told KUOW's Bill Radke. "They should not go to areas with public exposure where you are going to be within six feet of other people. And I sent an email to that effect today. That’s how I’m speaking to my family.”

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“If you don’t have to go to something right now, that is going to involve close contact with people, it’s just not a good moment for that if you can avoid it,” he said.

In other words -- stay at home. But that can have a dramatic effect on local businesses, and other organizations that depend on people getting out and about.

Inslee said the state's current plan is to implement social distancing, or having people stay away from each other to reduce the spread of the virus. That means no large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, or religious services. He has implemented such a ban on gatherings with more than 250 people in Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties.

During this time, schools across Washington state have also been closed. Events from ballet performances to Emerald City Comic Con have been cancelled or postponed. Stopping short of calling it a trend, the Washington State Department of Transportation has even noted that Seattle-area traffic volumes have been much lighter as concerns around COVID-19 grow.

In King County, any large gathering, such as those at movie theaters, must be approved by Public Health - Seattle & King County.

"It is absolutely necessary to prevent undue fatalities," Inslee said, noting that he has been told by doctors that COVID-19 is 10 times more fatal than the flu.

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But Inslee was pressed about smaller events and situations -- like going to the store or places of work. The governor said that it is a personal decision for people to limit their social exposure, especially when it comes to restaurants, shops, and other places where smaller numbers of people gather.

He urges businesses to plan to keep customers apart. Beyond that, work forces need to have plan to keep their place of business clean and sanitary.

“It really makes sense that all of us, whether there are bars, family events, you name it that are smaller, to accept the responsibility of social distancing. We got to keep people six feet apart. We need to think of ways to actually do that. We also, as employers, need to screen employees when they come in and at least ask them at a minimum whether they have a fever or not. If you do, you need to go home.”

"We are now facing a very serious epidemic, and we think we have probably thousands of people who are infected in the state of Washington."