Inslee's 'stay home' order will save lives in Washington but needs some enforcement
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Inslee's 'stay home' order will save lives in Washington but needs some enforcement

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Editor’s note: Today’s guest editorial originally appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

We knew it was coming. All of us watching the steep upward curve of confirmed Washington coronavirus cases in recent weeks — a total of more than 2,200 as of early Tuesday — weren’t surprised by Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to “Stay home, stay healthy” for at least two weeks, issued Monday evening in an unprecedented statewide televised address.

Notice he didn’t call it “shelter-in-place,” a term that conjures images of nuclear winter or an air raid by enemy bombers. Inslee struck an appropriate balance of firmness and hopefulness, a tone that wasn’t apocalyptic but was far from the blind optimism that’s marked much of President Trump’s talk about COVID-19.

The governor’s order follows a series of escalating restrictions that began March 15 when he banned gatherings of 250 or more. The directive means most of Washington’s 7.5 million residents can only leave home, providing they have one, for critical errands or a little fresh air and exercise.

As a preemptive public-safety measure, many businesses across the state had already voluntarily shut their doors. By midweek all others deemed non-essential must follow.

Collective adherence to this order will save lives. Our state has already lost more than 100 people to this highly contagious disease.

Now is the time for people to stay home, a decision not made lightly by Inslee given the economic damage it’s sure to inflict.

This doesn’t mean folks should rush to stores and hoard supplies. Supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, laundromats and healthcare facilities will remain open. Transportation systems will also be up and running for essential workers.

Two decades ago the 9/11 attacks rallied America in a way not seen since World War ll. Today, it’s again time to show the nation and world what we’re made of. Granted, the novel coronavirus is a different type of war, but arguably more dangerous.

According to the COVID-19 Response Team at Imperial College London, simulations for the U.S. show that if Americans did nothing, the virus could kill more than 2 million people. Fortunately, that’s not happening.

We are doing something. We’re staying home. Most of us, anyway. Sadly, over the weekend, we saw clusters of South Sound residents ignoring social-distancing recommendations at places like the Point Ruston mixed-use development.

As Inslee said Monday: “I have heard from health professionals, local officials and others that there are those still not practicing these precautions, and that is one of the reasons why we have to take these steps.”

What enforcement will look like across so many jurisdictions is unclear, but it had better be applied equitably and should come with a penalty that stings a bit, not watered down by idle warnings like Tacoma’s fireworks ordinance.

Exempted from the order are workers in health care, emergency services, food and agriculture, energy, water and sewage treatment, transportation, information technology, hazardous materials, financial services, chemical and defense-industrial sectors.

They’re the reason the rest of us need to stay hunkered down.

It’s a wide-ranging list, covering more than 4,500 words; to read it shows how dependent our society is on a host of professions, and the impossibility of pulling off a comprehensive “stay at home” order. With so many people still out and about, we pray this action will be enough to flatten the curve of COVID-19’s spread.

Inslee said the order will start at two weeks. We’ll see. In the months ahead, we anticipate a pattern of loosening and tightening restrictions until a vaccine is widely available; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that could take 12-18 months.

Certainly, the more time this action buys for overburdened hospitals, the better.

Yes, economies and household budgets will suffer, but these things are resilient and can be resuscitated in time. The same can’t be said for people who die needlessly from a virus we should be smart enough — and responsible enough — to control.

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

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