EVERETT — Mayor Cassie Franklin said her rush-hour drive home from work Thursday contributed to her decision Friday evening to issue the strictest stay-at-home directive yet in Washington in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I realized we still have a number of people in our community that are not able or are not practicing social distancing and staying home,” Franklin said in a video interview Saturday. “I felt we needed a bolder action.”
The directive, effective at noon Monday and until further notice, advises city residents and business owners to stay home, except for certain essential activities.
The mayor’s office worked on the directive for days, Franklin said, but wanted to hear Gov. Jay Inslee’s Friday press conference before releasing it to the public.
Inslee said Friday he isn’t ready to order residents to stay in their homes, but he might go down that path if Washingtonians don’t make a greater commitment to blunting the spread of coronavirus by drastically reducing social interactions. In recent days, the governors of California and New York imposed shelter-in-place restrictions in those states.
Franklin felt the stronger measure necessary for Everett.
“Taking a look at where the numbers were in Everett two week ago versus where they are now versus where they will be in two weeks, our systems will be overwhelmed if we don’t act now,” Franklin said.
As of Sunday, the latest figures available, the number of those confirmed or presumed positive for the virus in Snohomish County stood at 480, including 10 deaths. Officials at the county’s four acute care hospitals are expressing concern about the ability to care for the expected surge of patients in coming weeks.
Franklin’s directive allows for health and safety appointments as well as food and supply errands and caring for family, the elderly and the vulnerable in other households.
It also allows walks and other outdoor activities with proper social distancing.
The directive does not apply to those working essential jobs. The list includes more than three dozen types of businesses and industries, including health care, construction, public transportation, utilities, pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations.
Defining essential businesses is a moving target, Franklin said.
The order also does not apply to the massive Boeing widebody assembly plant in Everett.
Boeing employees continue to question the wisdom that allows the plant to remain open, despite company assurances that the aerospace giant is taking precautions against the COVID-19 virus.
Boeing’s campus at Paine Field employs 35,000. In recent days, employees there have complained of unsafe work conditions that keep them in close proximity to fellow workers and a lack of cleaning supplies. Some say the campus should be closed to protect workers and their families. Franklin said she’s asked the company for additional information about their employee health-screening practices.
On Saturday, the jetmaker said it continues to follow health authority guidance, perform enhanced cleaning and encourage a reduction in face-to-face meetings and creating more space between workers when possible.
“The mayor’s order specifically recognizes the importance and vitality of work to support our nation’s defense and transportation infrastructure,” the company said in an email. “The efforts of Boeing’s thousands of Everett-based employees clearly meet these important criteria. Therefore, the Everett site will remain open and our teammates should continue to report for their assigned shifts.”
Adjacent Paine Field, as a part of unincorporated Snohomish County, is not required to follow the directive.
Franklin said she’s heard from business owners who rely on keeping their doors open to make a living, including restaurants unable to stay open just providing takeout.
“It is devastating,” she said. “My goal is that by these bold actions early, now, and I hope that we’re not too late, we’ll shorten the amount of time that we have to be in this stay-home place.”
But if Everett residents take the directive seriously, Franklin said she’s hopeful businesses can begin opening back up.
“If we can really suppress the spread… We will more quickly recover,” she said.
Everett won’t yet follow in the footsteps of Seattle, Edmonds or Mukilteo to close some city parks, Franklin said, though the city last week closed park playgrounds and restrooms.
Since the majority of Everett residents rent their housing, Franklin said closing parks would reduce their access to the outdoors.
“Which is part of maintaining health. Being able to take a walk,” she said.
In Mukilteo, Mayor Jennifer Gregerson ordered the closure of Lighthouse Park, the city’s marquee public place at the waterfront near the ferry terminal, beginning Monday.
Mayor Gregerson has ordered the closure of Lighthouse Park starting Monday to help with social distancing requirements set by the state and to help limit the spread of the Coronavirus. #flattenthecurve #staysafe #parkclosed
— Mukilteo Police Dept (@MukilteoPolice) March 22, 2020
Those experiencing homelessness are not subject to the Everett directive.
The city is working with Snohomish County human services, emergency management and the health department to identify solutions for housing Everett’s unsheltered populations and also how to have fewer individuals in each shelter.
They’ve also identified possible locations to shelter individuals, like hotels and other larger facilities, Franklin said.
City police won’t be on the watch for residents breaking the rules, Franklin said.
“My anticipation is that this is self-enforced,” she said.
But if the spread doesn’t slow, it’s possible the city would step up enforcement.
“Before we could take that action I’d hope we see actions across broader stretches of the state,” Franklin said.
“The scale of this crisis is in our hands,” Franklin said. “We know people in our community are going to die. Our actions now will dictate how quickly we can get through this and how may lives we save.”
Herald writer Janice Podsada contributed to this story.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.