By RACHEL LA CORTE
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on April 2 extended orders to keep non-essential businesses closed and most of the state’s more than 7 million residents home through May 4, saying social distancing measures must remain in place an additional month to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
In recent days, Inslee had been signaling that his initial stay-at-home orders from March 23—which were set to expire next week—would be extended. The new proclamation, announced during a news conference, extends the original order from two weeks to six weeks. Under previous actions taken by Inslee in response to the coronavirus outbreak, all bars, dine-in restaurants, and entertainment and recreation facilities have been closed even longer, since March 17.
He said the state’s efforts to date have been robust “but we have an obligation to ourselves and to our loved ones to recognize this is a hard road ahead of us.”
All businesses other than those deemed essential—a long list that includes grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations—will need to remain closed until May 5. All public and private gatherings will still be prohibited and people will continue to be required to stay home unless they are pursuing an essential activity, like shopping for groceries, going to a doctor’s appointment, or going to work at an essential business. People can still go for walks, runs, and bike rides outside if they maintain a six-foot distance from others.
Violation of the order is a gross misdemeanor, but the governor’s office has said the goal is education, not to arrest people. Last week, the state released a website where people can report violations of non-essential businesses operating. Inslee said residents should not call 911 to report individuals or private groups who are not following the proclamation, but should instead contact local law enforcement.