May 4 not the end of Washington coronavirus restrictions

Some additional social distancing restrictions are being removed within the state, but other measures will remain in place beyond May 4.

Governor Jay Inslee has said the state has to see more progress in several areas, including the daily number of new coronavirus cases and deaths, before social distancing restrictions can safely be lifted.

He stated that the current stay-at-home order that was enacted March 23 would remain in place beyond May 4 and said he would have more details Friday on a phased-in approach to open the state’s economy.

Inslee announced the state’s first steps to ease certain COVID-19 restrictions including allowing certain low-risk construction projects to restart and allowing the partial re-opening of some outdoor recreation activities

The governor has also discussed the state’s approach to easing restrictions, which is based on several factors including:

  • Rate of infection: Case counts overall have flattened and data from the Puget Sound indicates that for each person infected, the disease is spread to just under one additional individual. While that shows social distancing is helping slow the spread, the governor said medical experts warn there is high risk that infection rates could increase again if we modify restrictions too soon.
  • Ability to test: To accurately determine the rate of infection, the state needs to significantly increase testing. While the state now has the lab capacity to test large numbers of people, it does not yet have enough testing materials including swabs and viral transmission medium to get the samples to the labs. The state is aggressively pursuing options to get more testing materials from the federal government and other sources soon.
  • Contact tracing: Once the rate of infection is low and testing capacity is in place, the state needs the ability to reach people who come in contact with someone who is infected to make sure they are isolated, as well as their families. That is the only way, currently, to ensure the virus does not spread out of control. The state is creating a contact tracing workforce of 1,500 people, primarily from the Washington State National Guard, local health departments and the state Department of Health.
  • Status of the health care system: The state wants to ensure the hospital system has the capacity to handle another surge of patients in case the virus again spreads rapidly through the population.

“Not one of these metrics is dispositive,” the governor said. “You have to consider all of these factors together and when they reach the point where we’re highly confident that we can reopen our society, then we will make a decision to do that as soon as we can.”

Learn more at the Governor’s Medium page.