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Gov. Inslee extends stay-at-home order through May 31

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday, May 1. (TVW)

Gov. Inslee has extended the stay-at-home order through May 31.

“I would like to tell you that you can make reservations for June 1, but I can’t,” Inslee said. “We will have to monitor, assess and adapt.” Watch the news conference here.

The governor said Washington businesses will reopen in four stages. Smaller counties not hit hard by coronavirus will be able to apply for the Department of Health for a variance from his order. The variance will allow for more quickly moving to each next phase.

Inslee said that data will determine how quickly Washington state moves from one phases to the next, but he doesn’t expect to see any movement for at least three weeks between each phase. Best case scenario, if Phase 1 begins today, the schedule is as follows: Phase 2 to start May 22; Phase 3 to start June 12; Phase 4 to start July 3.

“We have to understand there will be at least a minimum of three weeks between each phase to judge their effectiveness,” Inslee said.

Four stages:

Phase 1 is essentially our current phase with minor changes. His office is also working to get safety protocols to businesses by mid-May that would allow curbside retail, auto sales, car wash and drive-up religious services with one car per household.

Phase 2 would allow more outdoor activities, including camping. It would also allow gatherings of no more than five people outside your own household, construction, and in-store retail, barber shops, salons, and restaurants at 50% capacity.

Phase 3 would allow gatherings of 50 or fewer people, including sports, travel, restaurants at 75% capacity, and bars at 25%. Gyms and movie theaters at 50% capacity, and retail, libraries, museums, and government buildings could open. Pools and recreation centers could open at 50% capacity.

Phase 4 is essentially back to a new normal, allowing gatherings of 50 or more, etc. All phases must still follow physical distancing guidelines.

fourphases

Click to enlarge image

Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order was set to expire on Monday, May 4, but he said on Wednesday that it’ll be extended.  The governor has said that reopening will not be like turning on a light switch, but rather be a slow and calculated process.

“I have said that our return to normal will still not look the way things did before this virus until we have pharmaceutical interventions such as a vaccine,” Inslee said. “No one knows when we are going to get there.”

Counties eligible for a variance

Inslee said that counties with low numbers of cases and deaths, as well as enough hospital capacity and PPEs, are able to explore the possibility of moving on to Phase 2. The governor said there are currently 10 counties that are eligible due to their low number of cases combined with their small populations.

  • Columbia: 1 case, 0 deaths
  • Garfield: 0 cases, 0 deaths
  • Jefferson: 28 cases, 0 deaths
  • Lincoln: 2 cases, 0 deaths
  • Pend Oreille: 2 cases, 0 deaths
  • Skamania: 3 cases, 0 deaths
  • Wahkiakum: 2 cases, 0 deaths
  • Kittitas: 14 cases, 0 deaths
  • Ferry: 1 case, 0 deaths
  • Grays Harbor: 12 cases, 0 deaths

“In the next two weeks, the Department of Health and my office will consider additional criteria for allowing other counties to apply for a variance,” Inslee said.

When asked if he’s worried about people growing tired of the stay-at-home order, Inslee said he knows most Washingtonians understand the risks of reopening the state too quickly.

“The vast majority of Washingtonians don’t want to see their loved ones die of coronavius,” Inslee said. “The vast majority of Washingtonians understand that if we stick together for a while longer, we won’t lose the gains we’ve made so far.”

Inslee acknowledged that critics argue the death rate in Washington state doesn’t warrant a stay-at-home order. He said that the number of deaths in the U.S. due to coronavirus has surpassed the number of U.S. soldiers who died in the eight years of combat in Vietnam.

“To those people, I ask to consider for one moment what it’s like to have lost someone to this new and still mysterious killer,” Inslee said.

Live coronavirus updates

Inslee announced partial reopening of outdoor recreation on Monday, which takes effect on Tuesday, May 5. He announced Friday relaxed restrictions on construction.

The governor said data will continue to lead decision making. As of Thursday, 814 people in the state have died from the virus. Nearly 194,000 have been tested for coronavirus in Washington, with over 14,000 positive cases (a rate of 7.4%). On Wednesday, the governor discussed the metrics his office looks at in making decisions to reopen.

Inslee unveiled a dashboard, detailing Washington’s readiness to reopen in a handful of key categories.

Providing visual aids, the dashboard assesses readiness on a scale from “low risk” to “high risk” for the prevalence of the virus, the risk to vulnerable populations, testing capacity and availability, case and contact investigations, and health care readiness.

While Washington is approaching “low risk” for health care readiness and disease activity, it remains in the “high risk” category for testing and contact tracing.

Inslee pointed back at these “dials” on Friday when discussing how the state and counties will move between the four phases.

Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott contributed to this report.

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