Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday (April 29) he will extend a statewide stay-home order set to expire Monday night, partly because much more testing is needed throughout Washington to effectively contain the virus and prevent new outbreaks.
The governor didn’t say how much longer the order — in effect since March 23 — will be in place. He said he will lay out a clearer timeline for a phased reopening of the state Friday.
That process is under way. In recent days he’s eased restrictions so work can restart on some construction projects and residents can once again hunt, fish, hike and golf.
Wednesday he said non-urgent surgeries, also known as “elective” procedures, could begin again at hospitals under strict guidance.
But lifting the order completely and abandoning all social distancing measures could enable the the virus to return with a vengeance, and lead to more deaths.
“We do not want to go through this pain again,” he said. “Let’s just do this once and get it over with.”
Inslee, like governors around the country, has faced increasing pressure to allow more sectors of the economy to restart.
On Wednesday, seated alone at a conference room table, he delivered a nearly hourlong presentation of charts and graphs with the kind of data that he and his administration study in making decisions.
Numbers of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths are declining, but not enough, he said. More testing is needed to get a clearer picture of the virus’ presence in all communities, he said. That number, around 4,650 a day, needs to be closer to 20,000, or more. And when a person tests positive, more people are needed to investigate all those with whom they’ve come in contact.
“There is no one number that is a magic number” that guides our judgment and decisions, he said. It’s a compilation of all of them, he said.
The Washington Department of Health on Wednesday reported 15 additional deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to at least 801. The agency also reported 230 more people had tested positive, increasing the number of confirmed cases to 14,070.
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear healthy and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently expanded its list of symptoms. The list, which had been fever, cough, and shortness of breath now includes chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell.