By Jerry Cornfield and Zachariah Bryan
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Washington residents Monday to stay at home for the next two weeks in an unprecedented attempt to blunt the spread of COVID-19.
The proclamation aims to aggressively curb movement and interaction of residents by shutting down businesses deemed non-essential and banning public and private gatherings of people. That ban includes “some of the most important gatherings” like weddings, funerals and celebrations of life, Inslee said — but also encompasses parties on the beach, pickup basketball at the park or sleepovers.
“It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said. “… The less time you spend out in public, the more lives we can save.”
Provisions for business closures go into force Wednesday, but Inslee’s chief of staff, David Postman, said the restrictions could last beyond two weeks.
It is not a “shelter-in-place” mandate. Residents are allowed to go outside, and essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies will remain open. Inslee’s office released a 14-page list of workers whose jobs are considered “essential” and critical. They cover a range of sectors, from health care to defense, public works to the news media.
Also, while eating and drinking on-site is still banned, restaurants and bars may continue to offer take-out and drive-thru food options.
Saying he expects “everyone out there to comply,” Inslee gave a stern warning for those who might not heed the order.
“Make no mistake, this order is enforceable by law,” he said. State Patrol Chief John Baptiste said violations would be gross misdemeanors.
“The goal isn’t to make arrests,” Batiste said. “The goal is educating the community about being safe and healthy.”
But Postman said Inslee wants compliance. “I don’t doubt for a second he will ask for enforcement,” he said.
Monday’s directive is another in a continuum of actions undertaken by Inslee in response to the worsening situation.
The number of confirmed infections and deaths in Washington rose sharply again Monday. According to the state Department of Health, there have been 2,221 documented coronavirus cases so far, including 110 deaths. Snohomish County has seen 519 cases and 11 fatalities, according to the Snohomish Health District.
Prior to Monday, Inslee had ordered the closing of schools, entertainment venues and businesses such as fitness centers and churches.
Now, it will be extended to more Main Street retailers such as record and toy stores.
His new directive is similar to orders in effect in California, Oregon and other states.
The announcement came hours after Boeing announced it is shutting down operations in Everett and the rest of the state to protect workers. That decision followed the death of an Everett worker from COVID-19.
Even though the state is Ground Zero for the coronavirus, Inslee held off on a stay-home order as he pleaded Friday for people to practice social distancing voluntarily, staying apart 6 feet. But the sunny weekend brought with it crowds of people enjoying the outdoors, leading to the ban. Cities can adopt rules that are more restrictive, but not less, the governor said.
Inslee said things eventually will go back to normal.
“Schools will reopen, weddings will happen, factories will start again and you will be able to toast the end of this at your favorite hangout,” he said. “… But every single Washingtonian needs to enlist themselves in this tumultuous struggle, if we are to win.”