The e-newsletter I sent just two weeks ago talked about how three counties in Washington were under an order to avoid large gatherings. This week, the governor has issued an order for everyone in Washington to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy.” What, exactly does this policy mean for you and where can you go for more information and assistance?
The order from Gov. Inslee requires us all to stay home and not gather for the next two weeks. This means weddings, funerals, parties, play dates and other social events are banned for now. The order also closes all businesses not deemed “essential”. But how do we know which businesses are essential and which aren’t? And what do you do if your business, or the business you work for, must shut down.
These are confusing and frustrating times. Between regular updates at the state and national levels, social media posts by various agencies, and events changing by the hour, it’s hard to know where to get up to date facts.
Below are some common concerns I’m hearing from constituents. I hope this provides you with some of the answers you are looking for. If not, you can contact my office.
Why did the governor issue the order to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy”?
Despite the governor’s previous order for everyone to say home and use “social distancing,” many people continued their daily lives uninterrupted. And the virus continued to spread rapidly, overwhelming our hospitals. Health-care professionals worldwide agree that the only way to decrease the number of new cases of COVID-19 is for us to comply with policies requiring us to stay at home.
In fact, in China, it took three months for them to begin to see the number of new cases and the burden on their health-care resources decline. However, in South Korea, it only took five weeks. Why? Because they were very aggressive about their quarantine/isolation policies. The governor is hoping that this stronger proclamation will have a similar effect here.
And the sooner this is all over, the better!
Where does Washington stand right now?
- The statewide case number as of March 23, as reported by the Department of Health and local health districts, is more than 2,221, including more than 110 deaths.
- Effective immediately, all Washingtonians are required to stay home for the next two weeks.
- Effective 48 hours after the governor signed the proclamation (Wednesday evening), non-essential businesses must close.
- All gatherings are canceled — public and private. This includes weddings, funerals, parties and other events where people gather together socially.
- People should not travel.
- People can still go outside and go on walks, but should maintain a distance of six feet from others. This is called “social distancing.”
- The U.S. – Canadian border is now closed to “non-essential” trips, which includes trips for tourism purposes. Trade continues. Washington’s domestic borders remain open.
- There is no National Guard deployment in Washington at this time.
Which businesses are “essential” and will stay open?
The governor’s office defines essential businesses as those that are “critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”
Essential businesses include childcare facilities, grocery stores, post offices, banks, auto repair shops, drug stores, pharmacies and doctors’ offices. Click here to see the official list of essential businesses. This list might seem confusing. And you might want to know if your business can become “essential.”
For all inquiries on the list of essential businesses, click here.
Is it safe for vulnerable seniors to be out shopping?
Healthy seniors should shop as anyone else would during this crisis. Only do so when necessary, and keep a 6-ft. distance between you and others.
Seniors who are more medically and physically vulnerable should avoid going out in public. If you have a senior family member or neighbor who is vulnerable, offer to do get their groceries or pick up their prescriptions. Even though we are self-isolating, we can still pull together as a community.
Where do I find out more about unemployment assistance?
This is a stressful and uncertain time for many. Those who have lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently, are understandably worried about how to pay their bills. Following are some online resources where people can find out more about financial assistance.
Where do I find information to help my business?
Business owners do not want to shut down and put people out of work, even temporarily. If you own a business, where do you turn for help so you can stay in business and help your employees?
What about our schools?
The governor closed all public schools in the state through most of April, but has indicated that closures could be extended. However, education officials have said that education must continue during the closures. Contact your local district to find out how it will make accommodations for learning while you are keeping your children at home.
- School meals (breakfast & lunch): Schools may provide grab-and-go meals. Some districts are using their bus drivers and other classified staff to distribute meals. Contact your local district for information on how your child can receive meals.
- Student learning: OSPI has been working on the best way to provide learning opportunities to school districts. We expect to hear more very soon about their plans for Washington’s kids.
- First Responders’ childcare: Childcare at local schools for first responders will be allowed, if districts can arrange for staff to provide the care. The list is now expanding to include health-care providers and correctional workers.
What do I need to do?
- Stay home! And keep kids at home. This is critical.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
- If you must go out, practice social distancing by keeping six feet between you and others. While out, avoid touching common surfaces such as counters and use anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down shopping cart handles. (Many stores are now providing wipes.)
- Offer to help elderly friends, relatives and neighbors who are medically vulnerable with their shopping.
- If you’re sick, call your doctor before going in for care so they can be prepared.
- Do not use reusable grocery bags.
- Stay informed.
You can find more information on these websites:
It’s important to remember that the sooner we reduce the number of new cases of coronavirus and lighten the burden on our health-care system, the sooner we will be done with self-isolation. Until then, stay home and stay healthy. We’re all in this together.