Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee announced Friday the state’s phased reopening “Safe Start” proclamation is replacing the existing emergency “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, which is set to expire on May 31.
The new order loosens several aspects of his shelter in place policy, which began in March, but it also asks Washingtonians to voluntarily wear face masks while at work, or in public settings.
During the presser Inslee said he is updating the metric of requiring there to be no more than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in past 14 days, from 10 cases per 100,00 residents.
The new proclamation is likely to speed up efforts to reopen parts of Washington under the governor’s four-phase recovery plan.
His new plan makes it easier for businesses in more populous counties to move phases, and to evaluate more on a county-by-county basis. No county is yet in Phase 3. Twenty-six counties are in Phase 2. Clark County’s application to move to Phase 2 is on pause, pending a full review of last week’s coronavirus outbreak at a fruit processing plant in Vancouver.
“This is a path that will have more businesses opening,” said Inslee. “It will mean more activities will be allowed, and more flexibility will be allowed for counties in a variety of phases.”
Inslee also encouraged all Washingtonians to wear face coverings in public.
“When we wear a face covering, I really think it’s an expression of love and affection,” he said. “It’s a badge of commitment, and it’s a critical tool in moving forward.”
As part of this plan, workers in Washington will have to wear facial coverings at their jobs, unless they don’t have in-person interactions. That part of the provision will take effect June 8.
Washington’s largest counties, facing higher COVID-19 infection rates have largely remained in Phase 1 of Inslee’s plan. Friday’s order should change that.
The guidance at work places is as follows:
- Workers are required to wear face coverings.
- Employers must provide face coverings.
- Stores will encourage shoppers to wear face coverings by posting signs.
Dr. John Lynch, an infectious disease doctor from Harborview Medical Center, said: “This is just one of many things to help each other. A lot of people have minimal symptoms or don’t even know they’re sick, it’s like influenza. Putting on a mask is effective at capturing droplets.”
Lynch said face masks “are not a perfect tool” and added “if we wear this it shows we are supporting each other, and we know we can’t wear the masks all the time.”
Inslee likened this new approach to prevent the virus from coming back rapidly.
“We’re getting out of the quarantine lifeboat,” Inslee said. “The science on the cloth mask is more conclusive that they (face coverings) do help.”
Inslee said the order does not require business owners to reject a customer who is not wearing a face mask.
Senator Ann Rivers, who represents Washington’s 18 legislative district, said: “By today’s guidelines set by Governor Inslee Clark County could open, but the official approval from the Secretary of Health Weisman to move to Phase 2 is still on pause. Now, with that said our Clark County Director of Health is really pushing Weisman to open as soon as possible.”