(Archived video of today’s briefing)
11:10 AM: King County Executive Dow Constantine – and others – are giving a briefing on the newest orders related to the COVID-19 outbreak, including what was announced last night. We’ll add notes as this goes (and will replace the live-video window with the archived recording afterward – 1:26 PM UPDATE – archived video above). We’re listening in on a phone line – the video is lagging – so our notes are coming from that audio.
“We are at a critical moment in this crisis,” says Constantine. Briefings yesterday made it clear that “new social distancing orders” were needed, “serious actions not taken lightly. … It is time right now for people to assume that they and everyone they meet has been infected.” He urges everyone to “self-quarantine” for the next 2 weeks if they can. And he says he “appreciate(s) the anxiety” felt by so many, including businesses. He urges people to support local restaurants/coffee shops “at a safe distance” and to donate to arts organizations.
11:20 AM: Governor Inslee speaks now. So far, nothing beyond what was announced last night. “This is bigger than all of us,” he says. “All of us have to recognize for the next several weeks that ‘normal’ is not in our game plan.” He adds, “Hours count … this is our only weapon available to us right now … distancing ourselves from almost everyone else in the state of Washington.”
Other types of businesses aren’t being closed but must designate somebody as a “social distancing officer.” He also stresses “the supply chains are strong” but reiterates the plea not to hoard so that everyone can get what they need. Child-care and day-care facilities are on the list of what can remain open, he notes. While gatherings of 50+ are banned, he urges leaders of organizations to not have meetings of ANY size. And don’t be within 6 feet of anyone. He also says he’s talked to the White House about upping the allotment of personal-protection systems to “facilitate Washington getting” (more of it).
11:31 AM: The governor is wrapping by saying he’s proud of what Washngtonians are doing so far. “We ARE going to get through this.” He hands the mic to Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. He says all the orders are “science-based” and urges taking them seriously “even if you don’t know anybody who’s sick.”
(Note: Vimeo’s livestream is having some trouble so if you are seeing glitches, here’s a KING feed – the only TV camera allowed into the briefing.)
Dr. Jeff Duchin from Seattle-King County Public Health speaks next. He says cases are expected to double every 5 to 7 days – unless this “decisive action” is taken, and people take it seriously. He warns that slowing the spread is vital to keep the health-care system from being overwhelmed. He says even young and healthy people have to practice distancing, to avoid spreading it to others.”The actions we are taking today are going to affect our community weeks and months from now.” He says that hospitals and emergency rooms are showing an increase in patients already. He reiterates the orders first announced last night.
11:42 AM: The briefing has gone to Q&A. The first question is about more help for workers who lose jobs/pay. Inslee says they “absolutely … should look at” expanding unemployment compensation.” He says he “wouldn’t be opposed to” the suggestion of federal payments to people but thinks the system has “existing” ways to help. Second question, what about people experiencing homelessness? Constantine says they’re “deintensifying” shelters so there’s safe spacing. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks next and says they’re working to get more shelter available for more people. But the city will need additional state and federal resources. Third question: What’ll happen if someone defies these orders? Inslee says he believes people will do the right thing, but “if there’s a willful disregard” an injunction could be sought (plus, it’s a crime). Fourth question: Will mortgage, car payments, etc. be suspended? Inslee says there’s nothing to announce, yet, “we’ll have more to say in the upcoming days.” Fifth question: what indicators will you look for when deciding whether to lift this? Duchin says, “We won’t be able to look at the numbers of cases two weeks from now and know whether this is effective” – because there’s a delay – “We’ll be primarlly evaluating the logistical issues” and whether people are complying. Sixth question is about the new quarantine facilities in Issaquah and Bellevue, and whether the National Guard will be needed to guard these facilities. Constantine says they’ll need more before infections peak in six to eight weeks. “It is a fact we’re going to need outside help to staff them … whether that’s the National Guard or people from nonprofit organization,” they’ll need help. SKCPH is still working on those plans. Another question: With older and at-risk people being asked to self-isolate, why are large shelters still open? SKCPH says they’re working with shelter operators. Constantine brings up the added space announced a few days ago at Boeing Field.
In wrapup remarks, Mayor Durkan says they’re still talking about whether additional restrictions will be needed. She also notes that the health-care system needs to retain capacity for other health problems, not just COVID-19. Constantine reiterates that it’s OK to go out and walk, ride your bike, run, but please check in on others via phone and online. (He mentions his parents learning to use video phoning to stay in touch with their 5-year-old granddaughter.)
12:10 PM: Briefing over. We’ll add the archived video above when available. Again – no new restrictions beyond what was announced last night.
1:26 PM: Archived video now in the window above.