Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered state residents to stay at home in an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The stay-at-home order takes effect immediately, the governor said Monday evening in a televised address to state residents.
Inslee said the order requires that all non-essential businesses close for at least two weeks. He said the directive is enforceable by law. All non-essential businesses must close in 48 hours of the declaration, he said.
There are some exceptions for individuals and restaurants, however. The governor said state residents would be able to take part in essential activities like buying groceries, working at essential jobs and seeking medical care. Residents also will be allowed to go on outdoor activities like taking walks, working in home gardens and bicycling, provided they stay six feet away from others.
Business exceptions include pharmacies, groceries, food banks, convenience stores, media outlets and laundromats.
Restaurants that have been preparing takeout orders for customers can continue to provide the service, the governor said.
But all gatherings of people “for social, spiritual and recreational purposes” — public or private — are banned, including weddings and funerals.
Inslee, who had refrained from implementing a stay-at-home directive while California, Oregon, Illinois and New York — hard-hit locales with large, growing numbers of coronavirus cases — moved forward in recent days to limit social gatherings, said health professionals persuaded him to announce the order on Monday. He said people haven’t been taking sufficient precautions despite urgent warnings, as evidenced by large gatherings of people at area beaches and recreation areas the past few days.
While traffic on area transportation corridors was down somewhat over the weekend, those reductions weren’t enough for Inslee.
“If you want to have parties on the beach or play pickup basketball at the park or have sleepovers, these are no longer allowed for at least a couple weeks,” the governor said in his address.
Violations could result in a misdemeanor charge. According to the Seattle Times, an individual who refuses to leave public property when ordered by law enforcement could face up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A person violating an emergency order would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and liable to face a punishment of up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.