Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued a “stay at home order” on Monday, March 23, effective immediately. This order directs Washington residents to remain at home (except to conduct essential business, such as grocery shopping and visiting the doctor), bans all gatherings and mandates the closure of all non-essential businesses.
This executive order comes after more than 2,000 registered cases of COVID-19 in the state of Washington, 110 of which have resulted in death, according to Inslee’s address. The decision builds on previous mandates Inslee has issued as part of efforts to slow the spread of novel coronavirus. On March 13, for example, Gov. Inslee ordered the closure of all K-12 schools in the state until April 24.
During his public address, Inslee stated that the goal of this order is to minimize physical contact with others.
“The less time you spend out in public, the more lives we can save; the more time we can buy to fight the waves of this virus coming down on now and in the immediate future,” Inslee said in his address
As part of efforts to reduce contact, the order bans all social, spiritual and recreational gatherings. Similarly, all non-essential businesses are required to close within 48 hours after the order was issued, unless employees are able to work remotely.
Businesses that are essential for the functioning of society are exempt from this order, but they are required to implement rules that facilitate social distancing. These businesses include emergency services, healthcare industries, critical manufacturing, child care providers, food and agriculture, transportation, financial services, defense industries, critical local government operations and media. Additionally, restaurants are still allowed to offer delivery and take-out.
Gov. Inslee clarified that it is still safe for people to go outside for essential businesses, such as going to the grocery store, going to the pharmacy or attending a doctor’s appointment. He also stated that it is okay to go out for a walk or a bike ride, as these are considered essential activities for people’s physical well-being and mental health. These activities, however, will have to be conducted using social distancing (maintaining a distance of 6 feet away from others).
Although he expects Washington residents to follow the mandate voluntarily, in his address Inslee stated that “this order is enforceable by law and can be enforced.”
Finally, Gov. Inslee extended a plea to all Washington residents to not overstock “for the sake of our neighbors, our healthcare workers, our seniors and others,” and he asked “every Washingtonian to be thoughtful, and calm, and compassionate, knowing for certain that we can get through these together.”
Whitman College President Kathy Murray sent an email to the Whitman community in response to this development.
In this email, she urged students to take this seriously.
“Governor Inslee has instructed law enforcement to enforce this order. Campus security will do the same, and has the authority to inquire about and restrict your movements,” Murray said in her email. “Stay inside your home or residence hall and do not congregate. This means you cannot visit other people’s homes or residence halls. Students who do not comply with the order will be subject to sanctions under the student code of conduct.”
Following Gov. Inslee’s instructions for businesses, President Murray instructed non-essential staff to start working remotely within 48 hours. Faculty who need to be on campus to instruct will still be allowed to be on campus.
President Murray emphasized the importance of strictly adhering to this mandate in order to reduce the burden on the local healthcare system, and she expressed Whitman College’s commitment to continuing to support the Whitman community.
“As coronavirus-related restrictions escalate, opportunities to connect with each other and provide emotional and social support become more challenging,” President Murray stated in her email. “But I am committed to doing what is best for the health and safety of each member of the Whitman community. We will continue to do all that we can to support students, faculty and staff whether you are near or far. I hope that you continue to find ways to connect and support each other during this time of uncertainty.”