The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been catastrophic, especially for older local residents. The incident at the Life Care Center in Kirkland helped the rest of our country realize the seriousness of the virus which is now facing us all. At least 37 deaths have been associated with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the local nursing home. The virus continued to spread across the country, and now New York is the epicenter of the pandemic; the state is currently home to 59% of the nation's cases at the time of this writing.
As the virus continues to spread and the death toll rises (Monday, March 23 was the first day that the United States saw 100 deaths in a single day associated with the outbreak), governments at the state and local level are scrambling to develop policies that will adequately protect their residents. California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York have issued orders for their citizens to shelter in place, and last night Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that we would be joining this group.
Governor Inslee has ordered that all Washington residents remain in their homes, except to engage in 'crucial activities'. In a press conference announcing the restrictions, he stated: “This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project. “It's time to hunker down in order to win this fight.”
The stay at home order went into effect immediately on Monday night and is expected to last for "a minimum of two weeks", leaving the possibility that it could be extended beyond this period.
When Am I Allowed to Leave My House?
Under the current order, residents of Washington are permitted to leave their houses only for the following reasons:
- To purchase groceries
- To seek medical care
- To work at essential businesses
- "Essential businesses" have been spelled out as part of the order. Critical manufacturing plants, government operations, and communications services are exempt. Restaurants will be allowed to offer take-out and delivery foods. Supermarkets, pharmacies, food banks, convenience stores, banks, and laundromats may remain open, among other establishments.
- To engage in exercise activities which can be conducted while maintaining 6 feet of distance from others (such as walking and biking, for example)
The order specifically prohibits residents (as well as public and private organizations) of Washington from:
- Gathering for social purposes (including weddings)
- Gathering for spiritual purposes (including funerals)
- Gathering for recreational purposes
Can I Get Arrested for Leaving My House?
As of the time of this writing, the governor has not tasked any law enforcement organization with enforcing the order. King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said in a statement that “and we see no need to do so.” Sheriff Johanknecht's deputies will take “an educational approach” if they spot any banned gatherings.
Washington State Patrol Chief Jon Batiste stated that “the goal isn't to make arrests.” However, Governor Inslee's chief of staff did warn that the governor would not hesitate to demand enforcement actions “if we get continuing reports” about people gathering in defiance of the order.