3:36 PM: All week, the governor has been releasing new business rules, mostly for industries that will be allowed to resume some in-person service in Phase 2 (our area is in Phase 1). Reps of trade associations for hospitality and retail are joining him for this afternoon’s media briefing. We’ll add notes as it goes.
First, the governor says, “There is no economic recovery without a recovery of our health in the long term.”
The Washington Retail Association‘s president Renee Sunde speaks first, noting that “curbside retall” opened in Phase 1, in time for Mother’s Day. “Retailers have risen to the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis to serve customers across the state.” As announced earlier this week, Phase 2 will allow some in-store retail. She says retailers big and small are ready to “safely serve” customers.
Next speaker is the president of the Washington Auto Dealers Association, Jennifer Moran. She’s followed by Anthony Anton of the Washington Hospitality Association. “We’re really confident in our ability to open safely,” he says. He talks about some of the new requirements – distance between tables, between waiting guests, Plexiglas between booths, and more. “We’re all in this together … we’re ready to serve.”
Asked by the governor if the new rules are “slowing down” retailers, Sunde acknowledges there’s been a learning curve, but they have to be sure customers are confident they’ll be safe. Answering a similar question, Anton says some menu items developed in the takeout/delivery-only phase – family-style meals, for example – may be keepers. He adds there’s been a lot of learning about things not previously imaginable, such as the right way to wear masks.
Moran also says some of the changes necessitated by new health rules – more online car-buying – will likely remain because they’re going over well with customers.
And Anton says customers can “help save our small businesses” by “being safe in the next few weeks.” The governor notes that June 1 isn’t a sure thing for Phase 2 in many areas but echoes that the state’s residents can help bring reopening sooner rather than later through behaving safely. (He reiterated that later in Q&A, too.)
4 PM: The governor moves to Q&A. First is about the criteria or ongoing reopening. “I think there’s a misperception about the status of the virus in our state.” (At this point, we lost the feed for a few minutes.) He says there’s some cause for optimism but also some causes for concern. Avoiding unnecessary contact with others is a “kind of heroism,” he says, where you’re saving someone but you may never know who.
Next question is about jobs coming back. He says he’s hopeful some are returning now but we’re still a long way – “longer than we would like” – before getting back to normal.
Are hospitals and dentists still “on target” for resuming service next week? he’s asked. No clear answer. Next – he’s asked for an “update on testing.” Inslee replies, “Good news and bad news” – there’s capacity to analyze up to 20,000 tests a day, but “significantly short supply” is still a problem with test-related materials such as swaps and re-agent.
With salons still closed, how does the governor keep his hair short? His wife Trudi Inslee cuts it, he replied.
What about Memorial Day? Inslee says “there’s lots of ways to be outside without breathing on somebody.”
Shortly afterward, the governor wraps with his trademark closing line, “wash your hands,” and is seen on camera re-donning his face covering before the video feed ends.