Back to Nature: Inslee begins to dial back stay-at-home restrictions

— Created April 29, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

The dial has slowly begun to turn in what Gov. Jay Inslee said will be a long process of returning to “normal” life after COVID-19.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Inslee announced some outdoor recreation will reopen Tuesday, May 5, including day use at some state parks and public lands, fishing, hunting and playing golf.

“This will open up widespread outdoor recreation, assuming health and safety guidelines continue to be used by Washingtonians,” Inslee said. “I do want to emphasize this is a decision we made today, but if this virus were to spring back, we might have to roll back some of these measures again, which is the reason we have to remain disciplined in how we do enjoy the great outdoors.”

Inslee said difficult decisions were made when he announced his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order last month, but he knew it was necessary to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and save lives. But the governor stressed that even though some restrictions are being lifted, it is essential residents continue to practice social distancing and other health measures.

“If we see a sharp uptake in the number of people who are getting sick or are not following appropriate steps, then we won’t hesitate to scale this back again,” Inslee said. “This is only a beginning phase of relaxing outdoor recreation restrictions.”

Inslee said any further lifting of restrictions will depend on data and compliance rates.  

“This is not a return to normal today. The virus is too rampant to allow that,” said Inslee. “Data, not dates, determine how we act. We have a plan for reopening our state, but it depends on how the data comes in regarding the progress of this virus.”

Public gatherings, events, team sports and camping will NOT be allowed to resume.  Local governments and national agencies are not bound to reopen outdoor facilities – they may choose to open or close them based on local public health information.

 “Because of our shared sacrifice and the heroic work of our first responders, we can begin reopening our public lands,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, an elected official who leads the Department of Natural Resources. “Reconnecting people with nature is the first step of a long journey back to normalcy. However, as we reopen we cannot stop being diligent in the fight against this virus. We all need to make sure we continue to do as much as we can to keep our families and communities healthy.”

The order also does not mean all state parks will reopen next week.

“Right now, we are looking at impacts on rural communities and the potential for crowding,” Anna Gill, communications director for Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, told Whidbey Weekly via email. “We’re also working with local communities and partners to determine the best approach and timing to reopening these areas. We expect to have a list of parks that will not open on May 5 by the end of the week. Once those decisions have been made, we will post that information on our website,”

As with most things, the following guidelines and restrictions are included in the governor’s plan:

Monday’s lifting of some outdoor recreation restrictions follows an announcement by the governor last Friday that some low risk, in-progress construction may resume. The current “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order expires May 4. At Monday’s press conference, Gov. Inslee said he will address those restrictions within the next couple of days.