Washington Lockdown Exit Plan Revealed by Gov. Jay Inslee as Stay-at-Home Order Due to Be Extended Beyond May 4

Washington state, where the first COVID-19 case in the U.S. was reported, plans to gradually curtail its lockdown measures, but not all restrictions will be lifted on May 4, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced in a televised address on Tuesday.

"We're going to take steps and then monitor to see whether they work or if we must continue to adapt. We will not be able to lift many of the restrictions by May 4," Inslee said.

"We are encouraged by projections, but we aren't ready to ease restrictions yet. When we are, it will be slow. It will be the turn of a dial, not the flip of a switch," Inslee wrote in a post on his official Twitter account.

Washington has been under a stay-at-home order since March 23, which requires residents to remain at home, while restaurants, bars and other places of public gathering, and all other non-essential businesses, remain closed.

The state's lockdown exit plan entails three main objectives. They aim to "Protect the health of Washingtonians first; Get people back to work - safely; Support our community through the recovery," Inslee noted on Twitter.

Businesses will be given guidelines on how to reopen safely. The governor added that "Coronavirus will remain a threat to Washingtonians until we have a vaccine," and "workplaces will continue to look and operate differently until one is available."

Before any restrictions can be eased, the state must be sure it can slow the spread of the virus through expanded testing, the quick isolation of infected people and contact tracing, the governor noted.

"We need to be processing between 20,000 and 30,000 tests a day for our contact-tracing plan to work," Inslee said.

"Our recovery will be guided by science, not politics. And protecting the health of Washingtonians comes first. To ease restrictions, we need to ensure we can slow the spread and keep people healthy," he wrote on Twitter.

Seattle airport, Washington, Coronavirus, mask, March 2020
A passenger wearing a mask walks through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on March 15, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Getty Images

The state has tested 141,011 people, as of Wednesday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University. At least 12,282 have tested positive for the virus, as of Monday, according to the latest report from the Washington State Department of Health.

"Public health experts agree that the true number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 in Washington greatly exceeds the number of COVID-19 infections that have been laboratory-confirmed. It is very difficult to know exactly how many people in Washington have been infected to date since most people with COVID-19 experience mild illness and the ability to get tested is still not widely available," the department notes.

The governor also announced that three leadership groups have been appointed to focus on providing assistance for public health care systems, safe work and economic recovery as well as social support for the vulnerable and those affected by the outbreak.

"We continue to set the national standard in our coronavirus response. Though it comes with tremendous suffering, Washingtonians are doing truly amazing things on the path to recovery. Stay Home. Stay Healthy. And we'll talk again soon. #WeGotThisWA," Inslee said.

The first COVID-19 case was reported in Washington on January 21 in Snohomish County. Cases began to explode across the state in the wake of the outbreak and Washington quickly became the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. Several cases and deaths were reported to be among elderly people in nursing homes.

Nearly half of the state's cases have been in King County, while Snohomish has seen at least 2,152 cases, as of Monday. The number of new cases stayed on a mostly declining trend from April 1 before it began growing again from around April 13.

New cases began steadily declining from April 18, decreasing by more than 50 percent from 244 on April 17 to 107 on April 18. It has since dropped to 40 and 36 on April 19 and 20, respectively, as of Monday, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

While at least 682 people have died after contracting the virus, Washington managed to curb the spread of the virus. It now has only a fraction of the total number of infections in New York, the country's worst-hit state, which has over 256,500 confirmed cases and more than 19,600 deaths to date.

The novel coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 2.5 million people across the globe. The U.S. has nearly 825,200 confirmed cases, as of Wednesday. More than 686,600 have recovered, while over 177,400 have died, as of Wednesday.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.

Statista
This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases around the U.S. as of April 21. Statista

Data on COVID-19 cases is from Johns Hopkins University unless otherwise stated.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.