Washington Governor Jay Inslee gave an address yesterday crediting social distancing with driving down the state’s COVID-19 virus infection rate but held back on a timeline for gradually re-opening the economy under his current Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.
The order is currently set to expire on May 4.
Inslee said his biggest challenge will be for the state to obtain enough testing equipment before relaxing his order that has resulted in “non-essential” retailers needing to close. Those closures have resulted in large scale layoffs or furloughs for thousands of retail employees.
In answer to reporters, Inslee indicated that some non-essential retailers could be among the first businesses to reopen in a phased-in approach. Turning the economy back on will not be broad, he said.
“It will not be a light switch, it will be a dial,” Inslee said. “It will be a phased approach.”
Inslee said he has been having productive discussions with homebuilders, who currently are shut down. But, he did not venture a prediction when the homebuilding industry could resume operations.
For now, Inslee said relaxing social distancing requirements could lead to an increase in COVID-19 infection rates without more testing equipment and patient surge capacity at hospitals throughout the state.
Inslee said he was aware of the economic difficulty that his Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is having on businesses and the budgets of families who are struggling to pay their bills on unemployment or without paychecks.
Of a transition to a more open economy, he said: “We want it to come as fast as possible.”
But, he would not venture when that might be.
“The pace of that will depend largely on the data,” Inslee said. “We will monitor that data and adapt.”