By Rachel La Corte | Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday ordered non-essential businesses to close and the state’s more than 7 million residents to stay home unless necessary in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The stay-at-home order will remain in place through April 6. It expands previous actions taken by Inslee last week that ordered the statewide closure of bars, dine-in restaurants, and entertainment and recreation facilities and banned large gatherings. Several other states had already issued similar orders, including California and New York.
“This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project. It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said during a televised address.
All businesses other than those deemed essential — a long list that includes grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations — will need to close by Wednesday night. All public and private social, spiritual and recreational gatherings are also now banned, including weddings and funerals. The order’s prohibition on gatherings and leaving home unless necessary takes effect immediately. People will be required to stay home unless they are pursuing an essential activity, like shopping for groceries, going to a doctor’s appointment, or going to work at an essential business. People can still go for walks or runs outside if they maintain a six-foot distance from others.
As of Monday, more than 2,200 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the state, and at least 110 people have died. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Inslee said he was concerned that many weren’t taking the outbreak seriously and were still not practicing social distancing when out. He had warned last week that he might have to move to more stringent restrictions after some Western Washington parks, beaches and trails saw large crowds during recent sunny days. The governor’s office said that people should not use the stay-at-home order as a reason to overstock and urged people to stick to their normal buying habits to ensure that everyone has the supplies that they need.
The state has already closed schools through late April, banned events and large gatherings and ordered bars to close and restaurants to serve only take out or delivery options. State and local leaders have continued to urge people to stay at home and practice social distancing, but not everyone is following the advice. King County Search and Rescue is now asking people to avoid hiking so that its volunteers don’t have to respond and use their valued personal protective equipment if called.
Earlier Monday, Boeing announced it was shutting down its Seattle-area production facilities for two weeks. In a written statement, Inslee said he applauded Boeing’s decision “to implement an orderly shutdown and continue to pay its workers during this difficult time.”
President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a major disaster declaration for Washington and ordered federal assistance for the state, tribal and local response to the outbreak.
Also, nursing homes continued to be hard hit by the virus. Shuksan Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing center in Bellingham, had 29 new cases confirmed on Sunday, according to the Whatcom County Health Department. The Bellingham Herald reports 23 of the new cases were residents while six were Shuksan employees.
And federal regulators on Monday said they found serious infractions during their check of a Seattle-area nursing home hard-hit by the coronavirus and they’re giving it three weeks to fix them. They found that the Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to rapidly identify and manage sick residents; failed to notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infections among residents; and failed to have a backup plan in the absence of Life Care’s primary clinician, who fell ill.
At least 37 deaths have been linked to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Life Care Center.