Monday, March 23, Gov. Jay Inslee spoke directly to Washingtonians to announce he will sign a statewide order that requires everyone in the state to stay home. The order will last for two weeks and could be extended.
This Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is similar to orders that other governors, in places such as California and New York, issued last week.
This proclamation will:
- Require every Washingtonian to stay home unless they need to pursue an essential activity.
- Ban all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes.
- Close all businesses except essential businesses.
"The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save," Inslee said.
The proclamation states it's still safe for people to go outside as long as they remain at least six feet from each other. Grocery stores, doctor's offices and other essential businesses will remain open. People can still participate in activities such as bike rides, gardening, and dog walking -- as long as they follow social distancing rules.
This order builds on the early and unprecedented steps the state took in the past few weeks to protect Washingtonians. These included closing schools and restaurants, entertainment venues and other businesses where people congregate.
"We've been very clear on the need for everyone to stay home," Inslee said. "And, while most Washingtonians are doing their part, some still don't grasp the seriousness of this pandemic."
Bans on gatherings and going out take effect immediately.
This order applies to private and public gatherings. These include some of the most deeply meaningful gatherings in communities, such as weddings and funerals.
Along with other public places, non-essential businesses with in-office personnel functions must be closed.
Inslee said it's crucial to reduce social interactions where this highly contagious virus can spread.
Business closures must happen 48 hours after Inslee signs the order.
Many businesses can, and should, continue using telework.
All grocery stores, pharmacies, childcare facilities, gas stations, food supply chains and other things that offer people basic, crucial needs will remain open. Inslee expects businesses and residents to voluntarily comply. He will discuss possible enforcement mechanisms in the coming days if residents and businesses do not comply.
Industries that can argue they are essential can request a special designation as an essential business. Businesses and entities that provide essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet.
"We know life will look different tomorrow in Washington," Inslee said. "And we know tonight's announcement affects millions of our livelihoods. But these necessary restrictions will protect us and our loved ones so that we have a livelihood to come back to. We will keep working until this is defeated."
We want to remind people that the food supply operations -- including hunger relief and nutritional support services -- are essential services that will remain open and operational through this crisis; this order does not ban people getting access to food.
- Food banks and food pantries are essential services that will remain in operation through this restriction.
- You can still go to a food pantry to pick up groceries but check the hours before you go. Hours of operation may vary and many hunger relief organizations are moving to new ways to distribute food, such as home delivery and drop-off sites.
- Food bank volunteers may continue to go to work at food pantries.