On March 23, Washington governor Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order for the whole state for a minimum of two weeks, in the latest and most extreme measure to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in Washington state. The order began immediately at 5:30 p.m. on March 23 and is enforceable by law, Inslee said in a televised announcement. Washington joins at least a dozen other states with similar orders.
The order allows people to leave home only for essentials, including grocery shopping or medical appointments. People can still go outside to walk or exercise, but must stay six feet from others. Only “essential businesses” can stay open, including grocery stores, banks, gas stations, pharmacies and restaurants offering take-out or delivery. Businesses working remotely can stay open as well. Non-essential businesses were required to close by the end of the day on March 25, Inslee said.
Inslee’s list of businesses that are still allowed to operate includes hundreds of positions in public health, emergency services, food production, energy, utilities, transportation and trucking, media, information technology, manufacturing, government, financial services and other industries. See a full list of essential business at bit.ly/2xlvA5O.
On March 23, the Washington State Department of Health 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. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were reporting 44,183 confirmed cases and 544 deaths on March 24. Worldwide, there were more than 415,000 confirmed cases and 18,500 deaths as of March 24, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Whatcom County had 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths as of March 24. One week earlier, there were five confirmed cases in the county. The Whatcom County Health Department identified 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on March 22 in an outbreak at Shuksan Healthcare Center, a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Bellingham. Of those cases, 23 are residents and six are staff associated with the facility.
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 equipment shortages were reportedly widespread.
PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham said on March 24 that it needs personal protective equipment, including N-95 masks, hand-sewn facemasks, eye shields, goggles and gloves. PeaceHealth is accepting donations between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Grabow Therapy and Wellness Center near the hospital campus at 3217 Squalicum Parkway.
PeaceHealth asks that donors put the items in their trunk. A PeaceHealth employee will remove the items and place them in donation bins.
Inslee had been under pressure to issue a stay-at-home order in recent days. The chief medical officer of a Yakima hospital asked him to issue an order on March 21, and the mayors of Everett and Edmonds had already issued similar orders for their cities over the weekend.