Gov. Jay Inslee says that Washington state’s return to public life will take place gradually, and only when the state has access to rapid testing and response, enough protective supplies for the public.
"It will look more like the turning of the dial rather than the flipping of a switch," he said.
But he said that many restrictions will likely stay in place through May 4, though some industries may be ready to come back soon.
He said that elective medical procedures, outdoor recreation and some construction are likely to be among the first industries to return to business, with new safety and health measures in place.
May 4 is the current end date for the state's “Stay Home Stay Safe” order. While he said that state officials believe that the coronavirus spread is on the decline, lifting them in the next two weeks would reverse that trend.
“Our gains in this fights have been hard won, thanks for the sacrifices of countless Washingtonians and to turn back on this successful temporary approach now would be disastrous,” he said.
He said that the state would have to ramp up its ability to respond to the spread of coronavirus. Among the items included were:
- Wide-scale, rapid testing across the state.
- Healthcare and front-line worker access to personal protective equipment
- Availability of protective supplies such as masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to the general public.
Inslee said that workplaces will continue to look and operate differently, and that physical distancing and teleworking would continue to be necessary.
The approach includes:
- A phased-in approach for businesses and industries, along with guidance around addressing health risks for each industry.
- Large gatherings would continue to be prohibited.
- Assistance for small businesses to adopt new safety standards.
- Helping different regions with infrastructure needs to assist with economic recovery.
- A variety of economic recovery assistance measures for workers and businesses .
He also said the reopening approach would include social support including:
- Building capacity for behavioral health services.
- Offering support for stress and anxiety.
- Providing housing and food security for those who need assistance.
- Child care and education support, including increasing access to broadband and removing child care costs for parents seeking employment.
Inslee also warned that if the outbreak springs back, restrictions could go back into place.
Some Republican lawmakers have already started to question the state’s process of returning to the public eye.
State Sen. Phil Fortunato joined several other Republican legislators in a press conference earlier Tuesday calling for the Washington State Legislature to call itself into special session to address the ailing economy and Inslee’s executive orders. Fortunato was joined by Sen. Doug Ericksen, and Reps. Jesse Young and Vicki Kraft.
Fortunato said the lawmakers wouldn’t necessarily want to roll back any of the executive orders.
“We may agree with some we may disagree with some,” Fortunato said. “Shouldn’t our constituents have their elected officials give feedback on the proclamations?”
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