OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee says he’ll extend his stay-at-home order for Washingtonians, but he will also outline what reopening the state’s economy will look like once he and state officials feel the threat from the new coronavirus has receded.
The governor said on Wednesday that public health data is leading him to extend the order, which has closed thousands of businesses and limited large gatherings for more than a month.
That order was scheduled to lift at the end of the day on May 4, though Inslee and state officials have been saying an extension was likely.
“And we will have more details Friday about the phased-in approach about how we will open our economy in a safe way,” Inslee said.
He and other officials are considering whether certain regions of Washington should reopen early, like areas that have seen fewer cases. But no decisions have been made on that, Inslee said.
On Wednesday, Inslee announced some elective procedures could resume at hospitals.
Inslee said he knows “this recovery seems long” but also said he believes it is less harmful to reopen the economy without having it to quickly shut again because of a spike in cases.
“We do not want to go through this pain again,” he said. “We want to make this a one and possibly done situation.”
Meanwhile, in an effort to address the transparency of his decision-making, Inslee on Wednesday discussed more than a dozen charts and graphs of public-health data used to make decisions about the coronavirus outbreak.
That data, he said, covers five broad areas: COVID-19 disease activity; the readiness of the health care system; the availability of testing; the capacity for contact tracing after people have been infected; and the risk to vulnerable populations.
The governor shared graphics of, among other figures, the daily number of new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus; the reproduction rate of infections in King County; and measurements relating to hospitalizations and health care capacity.
[The presentation can be found online at: www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/4_29_DataVisualizations.pdf]
The governor has given specific goals for testing and contact tracing in recent weeks that need to be met in order to safely reopen the economy. But Inslee said there weren’t specific numbers for what would allow Washington to reopen.
The governor said he was looking at combinations of the numbers to see if there were broad indicators that the outbreak is slowing.
He cited a scenario where the state logged a low number of COVID-19 hospital admissions combined with a low number of fatalities, and downward trends of the both the percentage of people in hospitals with COVID-19-like symptoms and the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus.
“If you combine all of those, and those are all very low numbers … you might be in a position to make a judgment,” Inslee said. “But they all have to act in concert. You can’t make any decision on one of those, or we could make a disastrous misjudgment.”