In another unprecedented move to control the spread of COVID-19, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Monday issued a "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order for the state.
The order is similar to those seen in other states, but the governor cautioned this is not a shelter-in-place order. Residents may leave their homes for essential needs.
Here's what the order means for the state's 7.5 million residents:
- All residents must stay at home unless they are pursuing an essential activity, such as shopping for groceries, going to a doctor’s appointment, or going to work at an essential business.
- All gatherings of people for social, spiritual and recreational purposes are banned. This applies to both private and public gatherings and is effective immediately. The order applies to every type of gathering, including weddings and funerals. The governor's office suggests postponing these events.
- All businesses, with the exception of essential businesses, are closed. Business closures will go into effect in 48 hours. Essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, food supply chains, and others necessary for continued operations. Newspapers, including The Daily News, are considered essential businesses and will continue operating.
"This order builds upon the early and unprecedented steps we took to protect Washingtonians, including the closure of schools, restaurants, entertainment venues and other businesses where people congregate. We have been thoughtful and deliberate in making these tough choices," Inslee said in his address.
The governor cautioned that while his office has been very clear on the need for Washington residents to stay home, and that most are doing their part, some are still not grasping the seriousness of this pandemic.
Inslee said closing non-essential businesses with staff still working in the office or in public places is intended to "reduce social interactions where this highly contagious virus can spread."
The governor urged businesses that have staff working remotely from home continue doing so. For those businesses where individuals cannot work from home, the governor’s office said it will provide guidance on what businesses are essential. Any business not listed as essential but which "believes that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions"can submit a request to the governor's office to be included.
Among local businesses remaining open will be the WestRock paper mill. According to company spokesman John Pensec, the Longview mill is important in keeping critical supply chains operating for paper and packaging for food, beverages and medicine, and that the company's manufacturing operations have been deemed essential by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"WestRock is playing an important role in helping our customers ensure the products our families, friends and communities need are available now when they need them the most," Pensec said. "We are enormously proud of how our more than 50,000 team members around the world, including the more than 700 in Longview, are doing everything they do to safely produce the products that need to get on store shelves."
Also on Monday, Longview city officials announced that City Hall would be closed beginning on Tuesday.
"Protecting the health and safety of the community, as well as our staff, is really our priority at this point," City Manager Kurt Sacha said. "We will continue to provide services to everyone and have those services available either electronically or through individual appointments."
For now, the governor said his office expects businesses and residents to voluntarily comply with the "Stay Home" order. In the coming days though, his office will discuss possible enforcement mechanisms if necessary.
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