OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — With warmer temperatures and sunny weather expected throughout Washington state over the holiday weekend, Gov. Jay Inslee and other local leaders on Friday implored people to stick to social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“This is a time to enjoy our neighborhoods, this is a time to enjoy beautiful sunshine and this is a time to enjoy over six feet of distance with other people,” Inslee said. “If we do all of those things this weekend, we’re going to be healthy next week.”
While recent modeling shows that the state appears to be past its peak of daily deaths and on a decline, Inslee warned that if social distance measures are abandoned too soon, those same models show the numbers of deaths will start to steadily rise again.
“This is simply unacceptable in our state,” he he said. “We’re better than this.”
Inslee last week extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 4, saying that social distancing measures must stay in place an additional month in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Violation of the order is a gross misdemeanor, but the governor has said the goal is education, not to arrest people.
Inslee warned that it was possible the stay-at-home order may have to be extended once again, but said the decision will be made at that time “based on the data and the science and how much progress we’re making.”
“I know people are very eager to lift this as soon as possible and the way to do that is to comply with this order and do social distancing as much as possible,” he said.
In Seattle, more than a dozen parks will be closed this weekend amid concerns that more people will gather in the warmer weather and spread the coronavirus. On Friday, leaders from popular areas around the state joined the governor in calling on people to stay close to home this weekend.
Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler noted that hotels, RV Parks and beach approaches have all been shut down, and a curfew of midnight to 5 a.m. is in place.
“Come back and see us in the summer, when things are better,” she said. “This is not the time.”
Victoria Compton, executive director of the San Juan Economic Development Council, said that for the hard-hit businesses and employees in the San Juan Islands, “it’s critical for us to maintain the stay-at-home order.”
“The immediate hit to our economy is enormous but won’t be as huge as it would be if we have repeated outbreaks by not getting it under control right now,” she said.
More than 9,880 people in Washington state have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 475 have died. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear healthy and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.