Agriculture, food processing and transportation services are exempt from an order issued Monday evening by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee that will close a broad swath of the economy and ban social gatherings, including weddings and funerals, for at least two weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Businesses, including some manufacturers and builders, that are not deemed “essential work duty” will have to be shuttered within two days, unless all their employees can work from home. In deciding which industries to allow to keep operating, the state followed guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, state Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown said.
“People will need to eat. We need to keep on the lights,” she said.
Essential businesses that will remain open include grocery stores, medical offices, pharmacies, veterinarians and banks. Restaurants will be able to continue to offer take-out and delivery services, according to the governor’s office. The order expires at midnight April 6, though could be extended.
Inslee urged people to not hoard food. “No one should make a run on the grocery stores to overstock,” the governor said. “If each of us maintains our normal shopping habits, we will avoid the problem of empty shelves. We feel good about this.”
Washington’s “stay home, stay healthy” order came hours after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued similar restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The states have been conferring, but the same-day timing was coincidental, Inslee’s chief of staff, David Postman, said.
The restrictions in both states came after a weekend in which coastal towns reported a large number of tourists flocking to beaches and crowding local businesses.
In a televised address, Inslee said keeping people apart is the “only weapon against this virus.”
“This order will immediately ban all gatherings of people for social, spiritual and recreational purposes,” he said. “If you want to have parties on the beach or play pick-up basketball at the park or have sleepovers, these are no longer allowed for at least a couple of weeks.”
Inslee said people could still go outside, but must remain at least 6 feet apart from everyone at all times. “It’s still safe to go outside using social distancing of 6 feet,” he said.
Washington Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman said people who live in the same home can walk together, but friends, neighbors and colleagues shouldn’t. “Those folks really need to be walking separately.”
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said knowingly violating a governor’s executive order is a gross misdemeanor. He said he did not expect law officers to enforce the order with arrests. “It’s about educating the community to stay safe and healthy,” he said.
Postman said that Inslee could ask for stronger law-enforcement action if people ignore his order, perhaps with officers breaking up gatherings. “I don’t doubt for a second he’s going to ask for some enforcement of that,” he said.
Added Batiste: “We do have a law on the books that helps us with that.”
Health officials said they will look over the next two weeks to see whether the “stay home” order and previous orders are having an effect. Postman said he expected some restrictions to be extended past two weeks.