In news that doesn't come as much of a surprise, Washington governor Jay Inslee announced on Friday that he'll extend his "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order through May 31. The measure to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus had been set to expire after May 4, leading some to harbor dreams of backyard barbecues and other late-spring celebrations. But the declining toll of Covid-19 in Seattle and the state wasn't rapid enough to stave off an expansion of the mandate. “We have not won this fight against this virus,” Inslee said during an afternoon press conference.
That battle, and the recovery from it, will continue in four phases, according to the governor. He expects each stage to require three weeks of monitoring before more changes can be made. King County isn't one of the 10 smaller counties that can apply to the state's Department of Health to lessen the length of those phases.
In the first phase—basically our current situation, though the three-week clock won't start until May 5—fishing, hunting, and parks access are permitted, as well as some forms of construction and types of elective surgeries. More outdoor activities will be allowed as of next week, but a ban on large gatherings will remain. By mid-May (probably May 15), the governor anticipates giving retail stores the go-ahead to offer curbside pickup, automobile sales, and car washes, as well as drive-in spiritual services limited to one household per vehicle.
Phase two brings us a bit closer to "normal." Washingtonians who aren't in high-risk groups (65 or older, immunocompromised, underlying conditions) could plan camping trips and small gatherings (with five or fewer people). Restaurants could reopen at 50 percent capacity and five-top limits. In-store retail and more construction projects could resume. Quarantine hair could get chopped at barber shops and salons. (Pet grooming and other forms of care could also return.) Teleworking would still be urged, but some offices could operate.
Phase three marks the return of sports and gatherings of up to 50 people. Restaurants could bump their capacity up to 75 percent. Bars could open at 25 percent; gyms, pools, and movie theaters at 50 percent. Libraries, museums, retail shops, and government buildings could also come back.
Phase four is our new normal, with vulnerable populations fully encouraged to leave home. Nightclubs and entertainment venues could finally reopen, full capacities could be restored, and gatherings of more than 50 people could be held. But physical distancing would still be strongly encouraged until successful treatments and a vaccine arrive.
Welp. It's officially safe to say this summer's (forget about spring) going to be a bit different than usual. The Washington Mask Challenge won't end anytime soon, so read up on how to make and wear our new facial fashion statements. And keep practicing social distancing. Inslee said he's confident, if we follow these measures, school will return in the fall. So, at least there's that.
See the state's full recovery plan visualized below.