Gov. Jay Inslee’s easing of some restrictions intended to slow the spread of coronavirus is welcome news for Washington residents tired of staying home and fearful of the long-term economic effects of this pandemic.
But the slow return to activity comes with an important caveat — we must act carefully to ensure the immediate beneficial effects on individuals, businesses and the economy are not overshadowed by increases in infection, illness and death.
Last week, the governor announced that some construction will be allowed to resume if companies designate on-site coronavirus safety supervisors, require employees to wear protective gear and follow social distancing rules.
On Monday, he eased restrictions on some outdoor recreation beginning on May 5, opening golf courses, greenlighting day use of many state parks, boat ramps and public lands, and the gradual resumption of recreational hunting and fishing seasons.
More announcements will follow as state officials examine data and weigh the risks and benefits of lifting bans on elective surgery, and other commercial and community activities once taken for granted and sorely missed by many.
There will be no shortage of people and industry groups clamoring to be next to receive the green light, but these decisions cannot be made lightly.
As scientists continue to work on therapies and vaccines, lifting restrictions intended to protect public health and safety will be “a complicated dance,” as University of Washington’s Department of Global Health Chairwoman Judith Wasserheit recently told a Seattle Times reporter.
Some forms of social distancing will likely be necessary through the summer months, White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
Washington’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy emergency order has helped slow the spread of COVID-19, protecting medical systems from being overwhelmed. But the Washington state Department of Health continues to confirm new cases. As of end of Sunday, the state had seen 13,686 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 765 deaths.
As the governor and others have repeatedly advised, reopening Washington will not be a matter of flipping a switch. It will be the calculated turn of a dial.
As the state slowly and deliberately reopens for play and business, it is important to be patient. We are by no means out of the woods.