Washington’s stay home order: Your questions, answered

SPOKANE, Wash. — Come March 25, life in Washington will look different than it has before — even compared to the last month as COVID-19 spreads across the state and the country. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay home order Monday night, immediately banning any gatherings and forcing non-essential businesses to close up shop by March 25.

The order does not call for a lockdown, but does prohibit all social, spiritual and recreational gatherings in public and private, regardless of how many people are involved. Gov. Inslee said the ban applies to events as small as pickup basketball games and sleepovers to major events like weddings and funerals.

What does the order prohibit?

The prohibition applies to community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, sporting events, as well as parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers. Planned weddings and funerals are also prohibited under the order.

What is considered “essential”?

Washingtonians have been ordered to stay home unless they are participating in an essential activity or for employment in essential services.

  • Getting necessary supplies: groceries, food and equipment needed to work from home
  • Activities for health and safety: medical, behavioral, emergency services and medication
  • Care: looking after family member, friend or pet in another residence and getting them to essential health activities
  • Outdoor exercise activities: walking, hiking, running, biking — only if social distancing at least six feet apart from others

Essential businesses, according to the governor’s office, include grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, pet stores and marijuana shops, among others. For the complete order with a link to essential businesses, click here.

According to the order, homes and residences include hotels, motels, shared rental units, shelters and similar facilities. The prohibition does not apply to those whose homes or residences are unsafe or become unsafe or those who are homeless. Local governments have been urged to make shelter available as soon as possible. Spokane mayor Nadine Woodward announced Monday the city will utilize the first floor of the downtown library to serve as a shelter for the homeless starting in April. Woodward also stated the city will expand upon an emergency declaration to temporarily stop most commercial and residential evictions and foreclosures until at least April 3o.

Who are considered “essential workers”?

The order does not prohibit working from home, operating a single owner business with no in-person, on-site interaction. The governor said it will not keep restaurants and food services from delivering food or staying open for takeout orders.

The prohibition does not apply to those in several fields of employment, including:

  • Healthcare: workers who are testing and performing critical research for COVID-19 response, physicians, dentists, psychologists, nurses and assistants, pharmacists, midwives, social workers, speech pathologists, hospital and lab personnel, medical equipment manufacturers, and blood and plasma donors
  • Emergency services: law enforcement officers, emergency medical services providers, firefighters, corrections officers, search and rescue teams, military personnel, and 911 call center employees
  • Food and agriculture: grocery clerks, pharmacists, retailers selling food and beverage products, restaurant and carry-out operations, supplier employees, and veterinarians
  • Energy: electricity workers, petroleum workers, natural and propane gas workers
  • Transportation and logistics: employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, warehouse workers, truck stop and rest area workers, mass transit workers, ferry workers, taxis, transportation services, port workers, pilots, longshoremen, marina workers, truck drivers who haul hazardous waste material, postal and shipping workers, and air traffic controllers
  • Communications and information technology: radio, TV and newspaper reporters, technicians, maintenance of communications infrastructure, workers who support command centers, janitorial and cleaning personnel
  • Community-based government operations and essential functions: critical government workers, weather forecasters, public and private childcare workers, hotel workers, construction workers who support operation, inspection and maintenance of construction sites, plumbers, electricians, workers providing care to animals in zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, nature preserves, workers critical to operating rental car companies, laundromats and laundry services, legal or accounting and tax preparation services
  • Commercial retail stores: convenience stores, pet supply stores, auto supplies and retailers, hardware and home improvement, garden stories and nurseries, and office supply stores that support working from home
  • Critical manufacturing: workers needed for manufacturing food, medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, operations of dams, water and wastewater treatment
  • Hazardous materials: workers at nuclear facilities, workers managing medical waste, workers at labs processing test kits, workers who support hazardous material response and cleanup
  • Financial services: workers needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services (payment, clearing and settlement, wholesale funding, insurance) and workers needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services

For a full list of essential employees and businesses, click here.

What will enforcement look like?

Gov. Inslee stated the order is enforceable by law, though members of local departments have said they will not be issuing tickets just yet.

“This is not a hall monitor situation,” said Spokane County sheriff Ozzie Knezovich at a press conference Tuesday. “We’re expecting you to enforce that yourselves. We’re there to remind you, we’re going to guide you in that direction, but if you really push it to the point where we have to do some kind of enforcement, I guess we will, but we shouldn’t have to.”

How long will this last?

Gov. Inslee’s order will stay in effect from March 25 through at least midnight April 6.

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READ: Inslee orders ‘stay home’ order for next two weeks