With two days left until his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order expires, Governor Inslee is presenting an update right now. We’ll add notes as it goes. Whatever he announces, King County leaders plan their own update shortly afterward; we’ll carry that live, separately, too.
He says the stay-home order WILL end Sunday night. He says the tough measures weren’t an over-reaction – they’ve resulted in lower death rates because “we got it right.”
What’s next? County-by-county rules and policies, Inslee says, using those “new tools” such as testing, contact tracing, masks. He cautions this does NOT mean a “return to normal.” He says metrics will be used to approve whether counties can move forward or be “dial(ed) back,” and he’s outlining the metrics that will be watched, including targets such as notifying 90 percent of an infected person’s contacts within 24 hours of a positive test result. Another focus: “Protecting the vulnerable.”
He notes that counties are now getting more “flexibility” to move ahead – maybe with some activities in the next phase but not all, if they don’t meet the phase-advancing criteria. And now he’s talking about th importance of face coverings, which he says “can be very effective in protecting the other person” – a “small thing” to protect someone else’s life. “A face covering is an expression of love … a badge of commitment,” so that means new guidance for workers to wear them unless they’re working alone. Employers will need to require them. This will take effect June 8th.
2:55 PM: If you have trouble with the TVW feed, refresh the page or try the direct link. Now speaking, Dr. John Lynch from Harborview/UW Medicine, who says he’s been working on the COVID-19 response from the start; he underscores the importance of mask wearing because you could be asymptomatically spreading the virus, unaware. Physical distancing remains important too. Staying home when you’re sick is also vital.
The governor then reiterates, “We’re not done yet” – the outbreak could resurge – and that’s why taking precautions is vital. The stay-home order was a “lifeboat” for a few months and “we’re getting out of that lifeboat now” but getting into a different one. And staying close to home remains important, not overwhelming popular tourism spots – the day will return when traveling freely will be OK, he promises.
Now Q&A: How long will the turnaround time be for counties’ applications to move ahead, under the new criteria? State Health Secretary John Wiesman says at least a few days for conversations and evaluation, but “as quickly as we can.” The governor adds that the contact-tracing program will be county-managed – “you need to show us it’s really working.”
Second question is about the new looser case # per 100,000 – why is it OK now but wasn’t weeks ago? The health secretary says they wanted to start “conservative(ly)” to make sure it was safe. “There is no magic number here,” he insists, also noting that the new number is the one some other states are using now, such as California. The governor says new modeling also gave him confidence.
What about the possibility of flare-ups? The governor says that’s in our hands – taking simple steps (mask wearing, distancing, etc.) can prevent it. What about schools and colleges? That’s a separate process, and discussions are under way already. … Why weren’t masks required sooner? Their value wasn’t clear in the early going, the governor says – learning about this disease and how to fight it has been “an iterative process.” To clarify, retailers won’t be forced to refuse service to non-mask wearers (though they can CHOOSE to) but they WILL be required to post a sign asking people to wear masks. That’s the state rule, anyway, though, the governor points out, counties have the right to have tougher rules.
The governor wraps at 3:37 pm by saying, “These decisions today are based on our confidence in Washingtonians.” Archived video should be available soon, and we’ll link documents such as the new replacement order when available. Now on to the county briefing.