2:34 PM: Just under way in Olympia, Gov. Inslee‘s briefing, with health officials, at which he’s expected to talk about “phases” of reopening more of the state’s economy. We’ll be updating as it goes.
He says he’ll “issue a new extension of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order on Monday, and that businesses will be allowed to reopen “in four phases.” Monday’s order will extend Stay Home, Stay Healthy “through May 31st.”
But “what we’re doing is working,” he insists. He says he’s making “good, data-based decisions (about) reopening at the right pace.” He notes that 800+ Washington residents have died so far and rebukes those who claim the threat is “exaggerated.”
2:40 PM: The four phases, he says, are:
Phase 1 – “Essentially where we are right now” with recent partial reopenings of construction, recreation, etc. Plus: Retail curbside pickups, drive-in spiritual services, car sales, car washes will be allowed. A ban on “large gatherings” will remain in place.
Phase 2 – More recreation, including camping, small gatherings, in-store purchases, barber shops & salons, some offices, pet care services, restaurants with reduced capacity.
Phase 3: 75 percent capacity for restaurants, 25 percent for bars, movie theaters and gyms with partial capacity, nonessential travel, more
Phase 4: “Resuming the majority of public interaction.”
He says cities and counties would be free to keep tighter restrictions in place.
Now – how will those phases be triggered? By “data,” Inslee says. He’s going through a variety of charts. (PS – We keep losing the video feed but are monitoring audio via the media call-in line. The details should be available via the governor’s website later, too.) No specific dates have been mentioned for anything beyond the 5/31 extension of the stay-home order. One of the key metrics, as he’s said before: Increased testing. Also: Contact tracing; protecting those most at risk; health-care readiness in case there’s a case spike. “We will be looking at all these metrics … on a regular basis … to determine whether we can move to the next phase. … We’ll have three weeks, at least, between phases, to determine whether (changes have) worked or not.”
10 counties with smaller outbreaks (none in the urban area) may be able to move to Phase 2 sooner than others, he says. “What we learn from those counties can help (other) counties as well.” Other counties “may be able to apply for a variance” depending on data, he says. But “this remains a precarious situation,” he warns.
2:56 PM: On to Q&A. He’s asked what kind of testing numbers he’s looking for. He says that depends on the status of the outbreak when more test kits – he says the feds have promised 1 million – arrive.
Then: So realistically, restaurants and salons (etc.) won’t be reopening before June – how are you going to deal with people about that? The government insists “the vast majority of Washingtonians” understand this is necessary. “We don’t want to do this twice – it’s hard enough to do this once. … The hard-headed science tells us we have one decision here if we want to continue on the road to recovery.”
Also: What are the repercussions if a county reopens without state permission? He didn’t answer.
And: Looking at the three-week gaps (at least) suggested between phases, “does this take us to mid-July”? Would he have to extend this again? Inslee says that’s a realistic assessment for returning to large gatherings but it’s “possible …we’d get a large break” such as a cure/treatment.
Next: What if there’s a “great uprising”? Inslee says that “hasn’t happened” and he doesn’t expect it to, citing again indications of widespread public support and saying people in this state “are willing to make temporary sacrifices” to stop the outbreak. He adds, “I feel good about the course we’re on” and feels he has given people “hope” by outlining these phases.
Also: Amazon is allowing some to work from home through much of the fall. Reaction? Inslee says he suspects more people might do that permanently. “I want to thank the enlighened business leadership in our state” for adopting telecommuting early on.
Another Q: By mid-May, if Phase 1 is fully implemented, could restaurants, hair salons, etc. reasonably hope to reopen under Phase 2 by June 1st? A little “deeper in June,” the governor says, “but that depends on the course of the virus.”
Then: What’s the prospect of in-person school reopening in fall? He sees a “good probability” but says that what happens in the weeks ahead will have a major bearing on that.
Also: Is it reasonable to expect restaurants can survive with restricted capacity? Inslee says he was talking with a Starbucks executive who said they’re “adapting” so he believes that’s what everyone needs to do.
He ends by thanking everyone “who has helped us design this Reopening Washington plan,” and wraps up at 3:21 pm. Links with details should appear before long at governor.wa.gov.
4:53 PM: Here’s the chart the governor showed, showing what’s included in each “phase.”