On March 23, Washington governor Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order for the whole state for a minimum of two weeks.
The order is effective immediately and is enforceable by law, he said at a press conference. Washington joins at least a dozen other states with similar orders.
Only “essential businesses” including grocery stores, banks, gas stations, pharmacies, and restaurants offering take-out or delivery can stay open. Businesses working remotely can stay open as well. Non-essential businesses have 48 hours to close, he said.
People are still allowed to go outside to walk or exercise, but must stay six-feet from others.
Health officials say that, absent widespread testing, social distancing is the best way to slow the spread of the new coronavirus to avoid overwhelming hospitals. As of March 23, it wasn't clear if any hospitals in the state were suffering from a lack of beds or ventilators, but at least one hospital system has asked volunteers to sew face masks.
Inslee has been under pressure to issue a stay-at-home order in recent days. The chief medical officer of a Yakima hospital asked the governor to issue an order on March 21, and mayors of Everett and Edmonds issued similar orders for their cities over the weekend.
On March 23, the state health department reported 2,221 total confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 110 deaths. That's a jump of 225 cases and 15 deaths from the previous day.