Mar 23, 2020
Washington Governor Jay Inslee Coronavirus Briefing Transcript: March 23
WA governor Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order for Washingtonians today amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Social gatherings like weddings and funerals are banned. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
Jay Inslee: (00:00)
COVID-19 has taken more than 100 lives in our state, and that’s a number that will continue to rise unfortunately. We know our hearts ache for all of the Washingtonians and their families affected by this virus. And as we move forward, we cannot forget the losses that those families have suffered.
Jay Inslee: (00:24)
This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project. So, it’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight. So tonight, I am issuing a stay home order to fight this virus. This is Washington’s stay home, stay healthy order. This includes a ban on all gatherings and closures of many businesses. Unless those businesses are essential to the healthy functioning of our community or able to let employees work remotely from home.
Jay Inslee: (01:02)
It is still safe to go outside using social distancing of six feet, but really only for essential purposes. The grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and other essential businesses will remain open. This also does not prohibit people from merely going outside to enjoy a walk on a sunny spring day. So, life will go on. But for all of us in every part of Washington, it has to do so with this in mind.
Jay Inslee: (01:35)
Stay home, stay healthy. The less time you spend out in public, the more lives we can save. The more time we can buy to fight the waves of this virus coming down on us now and in the immediate future. I’d like to talk with you about this order and what it means for you and your loved ones and our communities.
Jay Inslee: (02:01)
This sort of builds on other unprecedented steps we have had to take to protect Washingtonians already including the closure of schools, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other businesses where people congregate. We’ve been thoughtful and deliberate in making these very tough choices.
Jay Inslee: (02:22)
And I’ve been very clear on the need for Washingtonians to stay home already, but I have heard from health professionals, local officials and others that people still aren’t practicing these precautions, and that is one of the reasons why we have to take these steps.
Jay Inslee: (02:41)
These measures are more stringent, and our goal is the same. To reduce social interactions, physical interactions where this highly contagious virus can spread. This weapon, distancing ourselves, is the only weapon against this virus. And we have proven that it can work, but only if we actually use it.
Jay Inslee: (03:07)
Here’s what this order will do. Effective for a minimum of two weeks, it essentially requires every Washingtonian to minimize physical contact with others unless they’re pursuing some essential activities like grocery shopping, going to a doctor’s appointment or the pharmacy. Or if they work at a business deemed essential to continue functioning during an emergency.
Jay Inslee: (03:32)
So, this does not mean you can’t go outside. If you feel like going for a walk, gardening, going for a bike ride, we consider these things essential activity too for everyone’s physical and mental health. We all just need to practice social distancing of at least six feet to protect ourselves and others everywhere all the time.
Jay Inslee: (03:55)
This order will immediately be in all gatherings of people for social, spiritual, and recreational purposes. This includes events that affect the old and the young in our state. If you want to have parties on the beach or play pickup basketball at the park or have sleepovers, these are no longer allowed for at least a couple of weeks.
Jay Inslee: (04:22)
This also applies to some of the most important gatherings in people’s lives, like weddings and funerals. For the sake of all, even these occasions have to be postponed. So, 48 hours from now, this order will close many businesses in our state excluding those deemed essential in these times or businesses where employees can work remotely without coming into contact with others. Physical contact that is.
Jay Inslee: (04:52)
If a non-essential workplace can close now, it should. Some businesses are essential and are not being closed by this order. We’ve chosen these essential businesses based largely on federal guidelines. Essential businesses and personnel not limited by this order include those that help us fight this outbreak including emergency services, healthcare industries, critical manufacturing, childcare providers, food and agriculture, transportation, financial services, defense industries, and critical local government operations, including courts.
Jay Inslee: (05:37)
And the media will continue to operate as well. The media have just been absolutely critical to keep all of us informed about this virus. Now, of course, we care about all employees, so any essential business or entity allowed to operate under this order must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet.
Jay Inslee: (06:02)
And I should also say to our many struggling restaurants, this order does not stop you from providing to go and delivery service as many restaurants are currently doing. Many of Washington’s sovereign tribal governments around our state have already implemented similar measures and other important steps. They’ve been exceptional partners in this effort.
Jay Inslee: (06:29)
Now, we expect everyone in our state to comply with these orders voluntarily. For a simple fact, it’s because everyone knows that all of our loved ones are at risk here. But make no mistake, this order is enforceable by law and can be enforced. And we know that to be socially irresponsible in these times is to risk the lives of our loved ones.
Jay Inslee: (06:58)
The rapid growth in the number of cases has put our state really in a race against time. We need to grow hospital capacity or else face an even greater public health emergency. And the more of us who stay home, the fewer of us who will be infected by COVID-19 and the more lives that will be saved.
Jay Inslee: (07:22)
Now, this is a very difficult choice and I make this difficult choice knowing it will add to the economic and family hardship many in our state are already feeling as we try to slow and turn back this pandemic, but we need to think about it in these terms. We want to get back to normal as soon as possible. We do not want this lingering intrusion in our lives. And the fastest way to get back to normal is to hit this hard, and that’s what we’re doing.
Jay Inslee: (07:57)
Why? Because Washingtonians want to get back to business as soon as possible. So, to address this, last week, I told you about steps we’re taking to relieve economic impacts of affected Washingtonians. We continue the search for ways to mitigate the economic impacts of this pandemic on the lives of our seven million residents.
Jay Inslee: (08:20)
You can learn more about what state assistance is available by visiting coronavirus.wa.gov. And I cannot emphasize the following point strongly enough. For the sake of our neighbors, our healthcare workers, our seniors and others, no one should make a run on the grocery stores to overstock.
Jay Inslee: (08:45)
If each of us maintain our normal shopping habits, there’s really not going to be any empty shelves. We feel good about this. So, in these uncertain times, I had encourage everyone to turn to whatever in their lives can bring them hope. What gives me hope or the stories of resilience and of action by individual Washingtonians to aid and comfort each other as we weather this crisis.
Jay Inslee: (09:15)
I’ve heard stories like the school districts in Tacoma and Puyallup that are launching childcare services for our first responders and medical workers, professionals and the medical front who are working under enormous pressure on the front lines of this war against this virus.
Jay Inslee: (09:34)
These are the folks, in some way, risking their lives for us. These are the current day heroes and we know that those healthcare workers are going to work so we can stay home and be safe. Our childcare workers are a crucial support system in this struggle, and so they’re going to work as well. They go to work at great risk to their health so we can stay at home.
Jay Inslee: (10:02)
I’m also inspired by the story of a furniture factory in Mukilteo. It’s now using its facilities to produce surgical masks and face shields for Providence healthcare workers to address the threat of protective equipment shortages. And in Yakima where a small restaurant owner and business, he’s only been in business three months before he got hit with this crisis, but he’s now serving free brown bag lunches that seniors can pick up daily outside her restaurant. These are the stories that can inspire all of us.
Jay Inslee: (10:38)
And we also know this. While we minimize our physical connections, it is essential that we maximize our emotional connections. We can all help their loved ones every day electronically. And we know this fundamentally. This challenge is temporary.
Jay Inslee: (11:00)
Schools will reopen, weddings will happen, factories will start again, and you’ll be able to toast the end of this at your favorite hangout as soon as possible, because we are hitting this hard. But every single Washingtonian needs to enlist themselves in this tumultuous struggle if we are to win.
Jay Inslee: (11:26)
We need every Washingtonian to be thoughtful and calm and compassionate, knowing for certain that we can get through this together. I remind you of the work of one of our great poets, Walt Whitman, in Song of Myself. He wrote, “Of the courage of present times and all times, of fighting through the storm with knuckles tight and not giving back an inch to save others consumed by the tides.”
Jay Inslee: (11:58)
We need this spirit now in our state. We need this now in our nation, because life will be different in Washington for a while, but we will keep working until this pandemic is defeated. Until then, I make this promise to you, my fellow Washingtonians, and is borrowed from the same great poet. Be of good cheer, we will not desert you. Stay home, stay healthy. Thank you, and be well.