Gov. Inslee: “Stay Home, Stay Healthy”

— Created March 25, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

According to Gov. Jay Inslee, it is time to “hunker down.”

In an address to the state Monday evening, Inslee announced he is requiring all residents to stay home. This order, which is enforceable by law, will last at least two weeks and could possibly be extended.

“It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said in his address. “This includes a ban on all gatherings and closure of many businesses, unless those businesses are essential to the healthy functioning of our community or able to let employees work remotely from home.”

The ban on all gatherings took effect immediately and includes social, spiritual and recreational functions, public and private. Even weddings and funerals are not permitted for the duration of the order. Grocery stores, doctor’s offices and other essential businesses will remain open, as will food banks and pantries. Restaurants may still provide take-out and delivery services. Non-essential businesses with in-office personnel functions must be closed, but will be allowed to continue operating if employees can work remotely. The closure of non-essential businesses was set to take effect Wednesday. People are permitted to go outside, provided they maintain a safe distance of at least six feet from others.

“The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save, the more time we have to fight the waves of this virus coming down on us now and in the immediate future,” Inslee said, adding that this order builds on other steps the state has taken, such as closing schools, restaurants and entertainment venues.

“We’ve been very clear on the need for everyone to stay home. These measures are more stringent and our goal is the same – to reduce social interactions, physical interactions, where this highly contagious virus can spread,” the governor continued. “This weapon, distancing ourselves, is the only weapon against this virus. We have proven that it can work, but only if we actually use it.”

Cases in Island County Grow

The stay home order from Gov. Inslee comes on the heels of serious news from Island County Public Health that a potential cluster of COVID-19 infections is being investigated at a Whidbey Island long-term healthcare facility, Careage of Whidbey in Coupeville.

“Ten cases have been confirmed by the WA State Department of Health,” said a press release Tuesday afternoon. “Test results are pending for other residents and employees. This is the first confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 associated with a long-term care facility in Island County.”

ICPH directs anyone who has been exposed to a confirmed case to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. People experiencing symptoms need to stay at home for at least three days after their symptoms resolve or at a minimum seven days, whichever is longer. 

As of press time Tuesday, there were 38 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Island County, up from 11 at the same time last week. Public health officials said cases of the novel coronavirus are now considered widespread throughout Island County and residents are urged to follow health mandates.

“The main message to Island County residents remains the same – wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay home as much as possible, behave as if everyone outside of your household has the virus, and keep your distancing,” said Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson. “This is the best way to stay safe. We must be vigilant in working together and each doing our part to help slow the spread of this virus.”

“The cluster [at Careage] does NOT change the recommendations,” said Commissioner Jill Johnson. “The majority of the cases in this county are from general community contact. We are giving it to each other. We need to take the precautions seriously and limit interactions with one another, wash our hands, try not to touch our face, wipe down surfaces. There is nothing magical about the advice, we simply need to follow it, even if it seems basic or restrictive. Stay home and limit social contact.”

Health concerns aside, commissioners said they recognize the impact these restrictions will have on Whidbey Island businesses.

“The economic impacts of this crisis are terrible for our local business owners and their employees,” said Price Johnson. “My heart goes out to them and their families. It is a scary time for sure. There is much uncertainty about how long this will last. I urge everyone affected to seek out the resources being provided.  [Emergency Manager] Eric Brooks is tracking these programs through the county’s response center, and the Island County Economic Development Center is compiling information for our community as well.”

As Washington residents are told to stay apart, there are still ways we can come together, said Johnson.

 “The other message I would like folks to consider is that if you are blessed with a stable paycheck, that you use some of that to help uplift others in our community,” she said. “Buy extra food for the food bank, give a gift card for groceries or even cash to a neighbor whose income has been impacted.  Many of those affected are small business owners. They are always the first to donate to local charities and events, and right now, they need us. So think about what you can do to economically support someone else. We need to slow the spread of the virus, but we also need to work together to keep things economically stable.”

Most city, town and county offices are now closed to the public. Local governments and many businesses are providing services via phone, email and internet connections. People should check websites for ALL locations to know how business operations may have changed and adjust accordingly , remembering outings have now been restricted essential activities only.

“We all need to stay physically apart, yet pull together in spirit, and help each other get through this difficult time,” said Price Johnson.

For additional support and information related to the COVID-19 crisis, check out the following websites:
*WA State Department of Health –
Call Center – 1-800-525-0127, Sunday through Saturday (6 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
*Island County Public Health –
Call Center – 360-678-2301, Monday through Friday (8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.)