Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Washington State, US, extend order requiring residents to stay at home through May 31, lift some restrictions starting May 5.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Wenatchee, Washington
  • Tri-Cities (Kennewick-Pasco-Richland), Washington
  • Everett, Washington
  • Yakima, Washington
  • Walla Walla, Washington
  • Olympia, Washington
  • Oak Harbor, Washington
  • Pullman, Washington
  • Richland, Washington

This alert began 04 May 2020 21:26 GMT and is scheduled to expire 26 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 Restrictions
  • Location(s): Washington State (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least May 31
  • Impact: Movement restrictions, significant transport and business disruptions, heightened security

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee extended orders that require residents to stay at home and most nonessential businesses to remain closed until at least May 31, while lifting some restrictions on businesses and activities starting May 5, as part of the state's response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The initial order, which has been in place since March 25, stipulates that residents may only leave their homes for essential tasks, such as obtaining basic goods, attending a medical issue, caring for a person in need, or attending work at an essential business or service. People may also perform outdoor recreational activities while maintaining a proper distance from others. Gatherings of any kind remain banned.

Officials also announced that phase 1 of the state's reopening will start May 5: some additional outdoor recreational activities will be allowed, including fishing, hunting, boating, and golf; auto and boat sales, landscaping, car washes, and some pet services will be allowed to operate; drive-in spiritual services, with people from one household per vehicle, will be allowed; retail stores can open for curbside pickup only. Construction activity has been allowed since April 29. Other nonessential services must remain closed, although employees can work from home whenever possible. Phase 1 will last at least until May 26, but authorities may extend it further. In phase 2, authorities will lift restrictions for restaurants to offer inside dining, and additional businesses to reopen, including personal care businesses, in-store retail services, and office-based businesses.

Essential businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and those involved in food, utilities, energy, security, media, and transport, may continue operating. All individuals must wear face coverings when in public. Employers must ensure social distancing measures, enhance sanitation, and prevent employees with symptoms to attend work.

While the orders are statewide, authorities in counties with fewer than 75,000 residents, which have not identified a resident with COVID-19 for the last three weeks, may request an exemption to some of the restrictions to Washington state authorities.

Significant transport and business disruptions are likely. Authorities will almost certainly deploy additional security personnel to assist in enforcing the measure. Officials could amend the order in short notice, depending on the disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures are likely to accelerate in the coming weeks; however, restrictions may be reimposed or extended further should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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