Governor Jay Inslee has begun easing restrictions from his Stay Home Stay Healthy order as COVID-19 infection rates have fallen in Washington State.
In recent days, Inslee has lifted restrictions to allow partial home and commercial construction and limited daytime use of state parks for hiking, hunting, fishing and playing golf.
The current order, extended once already, is in effect until May 4. It has resulted in numerous costly consequences for retailers deemed by the Governor to be non- essential. With exceptions such as groceries, pharmacies and gasoline stations, many retail stores large and small alike have been closed to pedestrian customers. This has resulted in record layoffs and furloughs of employees.
The order has forced many retailers and restaurants into limited online or curbside service where possible.
Inslee has indicated he is working on a plan that could result in the safe reopening of elective surgeries but he did not estimate when such a move might be possible.
During an appearance before the media earlier this week, Inslee discouraged interpreting any other consequences from his relaxation of the order so far.
“This is not a return to normal today,” he said in announcing the relaxation to allow limited use of state parks effective on May 5. “We are a long way from the end of this virus.”
During an interview with TVW television earlier this week, Inslee said that the retail industry could be next in line for reopening with proper safety procedures in place but did not suggest when that might be.
Future relaxations, he said, would vary by the industry and their ability to guarantee physical distancing while in business.
Inslee said he is aware of the toll the order is taking on the state budget and the revenue shortfall it has created relative to state spending plans. The impact, he said, would be in the billions of dollars on the state budget without specifying an amount.
Inslee said he would have a clearer idea of the budgetary impact when state officials provide him with impacts on monthly revenues at the end of the month.
Some have speculated that a large enough budget deficit could force Inslee to call a special session of the state Legislature later this year.