Gov. Jay Inslee: Majority of stay-home order will stay in effect past May 4

click to enlarge Washington Gov. Jay Inslee - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy order will largely stay in effect past its current expiration date of May 4, the governor said at a Wednesday press conference.

"Over a week ago, I said that I did not expect that the entirety of our Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy measure could be lifted on May 4. And today I’m confirming that, based on the data and science, that is the case," Inslee says. "So based on the data at our disposal, the current Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy order will stay in effect."

Some measures are slowly being lifted, however. Last week, Inslee announced that certain construction projects could continue and then said on Monday that limited outdoor recreation could resume starting on May 5. On Wednesday, his office also rolled out guidance to allow hospitals to conduct elective surgeries.

"It’s going to obviously help people get access to new joints and the like and it will help with the revenue picture of hospitals as well," Inslee says of the hospital measures.

But Inslee's takeaway message is that the state is "not out of the woods yet."

Citing a battery of graphs, statistics, and projection models, Inslee says that while the state's new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are declining, the decreases aren't good enough to safely reopen Washington. He stresses that epidemiological models predict that sudden relaxing of social-distancing measures could cause cases to skyrocket again.

"The quickest way to reopen our economy is to get this job done. We do not want to go through this pain again," Inslee says. "The fundamental principle we’re following is, 'Let’s just do this once and get it over with.'"

"We need to get these numbers down, wrestle them to the ground so we can get to the next phase of our recovery," he adds.

The Governor's Office will, however, have more details on a "phased-in" reopening approach on Friday, Inslee says.

A number of factors are informing state officials' decision-making on when and how to reopen the state, Inslee says. Those include the number of daily reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, hospital bed and equipment availability, testing capacity, the number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities per week, and the size and effectiveness of the state's "contract tracing" workforce to identify, test isolate people who have been exposed to people diagnosed with COVID-19.

"We have to improve our current situation if we're really going to take the next step of reopening," Inslee says.

On the subject of testing, Inslee strikes a familiar tone. While the state has the capacity to process around 22,000 tests per day, issues in the supply chain of getting testing materials (like swabs) has kept that number down at around 4,600 tests per day.

"If you’re fighting a war, you need to know where the enemy is and our ability to know the status of the disease in the population is very important," Inslee says. "We need testing to be able to have a status assessment of the pandemic."

"Our testing capacity has been sorely taxed," Inslee says. "We have to have increased testing material if we're ever going to get to increased testing capacity."

The state's contact tracing workforce is also getting stood-up, Inslee says. Currently, there around 565 people involved, and the goal is to have 1,500 by May 11.

And as far as available hospital beds and ventilators, Inslee says that there around 850 available ventilators and "just under 1,000" additional beds that could be available if COVID-19 cases surge again.

When pressed by reporters, Inslee and state officials wouldn't provide specific empirical benchmarks that the state would have to see before moving ahead with reopening. But Inslee did point to potentially seeing some metrics, like the number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed daily, in the "single digits" as promising trends.

"We might be able to have some confidence with a compilation of numbers in the single digits, perhaps. If you have the number of admissions in the single digits of those with COVID positive, and that's combined with very, very low numbers of fatalities and that's combined with a trend of a continued reduction of the percentage of people in hospitals that have COVID-like [symptoms] and that's combined with a decreased percentage of the people tested who have that disease," he says. "If you combine all of those, and those are all very low numbers, all in single digits, you might be in a position to make a judgment. But they all have to act in concert."

"There is no one number that any of us can hang our hat on to make an independent decision based on one number," Inslee adds. "We have to look at all of these in compilation and make sure that they’re all significantly improved so we can move to the next phase of reopening our economy."

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About The Author

Josh Kelety

As a staff writer, Josh covers criminal justice issues and Spokane County government. Previously, he worked as a reporter for Seattle Weekly. Josh grew up in Port Townsend and graduated from the University of Washington. Message him through Signal @ (360) 301-3490.