Saying he would take a “scientific approach” to reopening Washington and its economy, Inslee said Tuesday he will not be able to lift many restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by May 4th but, when it begins, the recovery will be “more like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch.”
“We’re going to take steps and then monitor to see if they work or if we must continue to adapt,” Inslee said.
Washington’s current restrictions have been ordered though May 4th. The legally enforceable order restricts activities to only essential needs including visiting health facilities, grocery shopping, and working in “essential businesses” and industries. Restaurants and bars have also been able to continue offering to go and delivery orders. Larger impacts include a halt to most commercial construction that does not involve safety or critical repairs.
The governor said some elements currently under restriction are being lined up to return first including elected surgeries, the return of more “outdoor recreation,” and a “sensible plan” for a limited return to construction.
King County residents have now been living under COVID-19 restrictions since March 11th.
CHS COVID-19 TIMELINE: + Feb. 29 First ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 case in King County + Mar. 11 Washington puts ‘over 250’ restrictions in place + Mar. 11 Schools closed + Mar. 15 Restaurants and bars closed, ‘over 50’ threshold + Mar. 21 Police begin clearing parks + Apr. 2 Washington restrictions extended + Apr. 6 Schools closed for rest of year
In King County, while the rates of new positive cases and deaths have slowed, officials say they would like to see a lower transmission rate in addition to the call for increased testing and contact tracing before social restrictions are lifted. CHS reported here on calls for a “loosen, test, loosen” approach to any relaxation in the orders including requirements for increased testing, contact tracing, and hospitals fully prepared for a possible second outbreak. California, Oregon, and Washington have formed a three-state pact to coordinate the transition.
Through Monday, King County has reported 372 deaths during the outbreak. 682 are reported dead across Washington. The United States total has now surpassed 45,000.
The economic impact has been devastating with Washington unemployment claims the “highest on record.”
Earlier in the day, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the city is preparing for a possible $300 million budget shortfall as it faces reduced revenue and increased expenditures in the face of the pandemic and the restrictions.
Last week, researchers said an influential model from UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicated Washington was on pace for meeting a possible threshold to begin lifting restrictions around May 18th.
Tuesday, Inslee said health officials believe infection rates are “likely declining” in the state and new modeling coming “in days” would help inform the plan. A “rapid response team” will be put in place to handle issues with elements like testing or a rise in infection rates, Inslee said, comparing the group to a fire department ready and on call for emergencies.
- 5/4/20: COVID-19 updates: Phase 1 begins, what’s in Phase 2 (and 3 and 4), King County removes antibody testing case counts, COVID-19 yard art
- 5/1/20: Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel
- 4/30/20: Washington investigating state totals after COVID-19 ‘excess deaths’ report
- 4/30/20: Facing opposition from mayor and chamber advocates, Seattle tax on big businesses for COVID-19 relief and housing moves toward May vote
- Plus: Capitol Hill Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes offering takeout during COVID-19 ‘stay home’ restrictions
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