We’re still allowed to leave our homes, at least for now

The governor’s office says there are no immediate plans to impose stricter limits on movement.

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — There are no immediate plans in Washington to enact more stringent social distancing requirements to fight the spread of coronavirus like those imposed by California, New York and other states, Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff said Friday.

“We don’t feel it’s necessary to take that next step today, in terms of shutting down more businesses,” David Postman told reporters.

Postman said that compared to what Washington is already doing, there’s not much difference in what’s closed in states that have issued shelter-in-place orders.

“It’s a difference of messaging,” he said. In California, for example, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, pharmacies and other health care providers, news outlets, banks and laundromats are still open and restaurants can still provide take-out food and make deliveries.

Postman said that at a news conference scheduled later Friday, Inslee would be talking about strategies related to the topic of safety of workers who are in the at-risk category of 60 or older, or people with underlying health conditions.

On Friday, the state Department of Health reported a cumulative 1,524 confirmed cases in Washington and 83 fatalities.

The Snohomish Health District said the county has logged 385 coronavirus cases, and an eighth death occurred Thursday — a woman in her 90s with underlying health conditions who was connected with the Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood.

King continues to be the worst of 25 counties that report COVID-19 cases. On Friday the tally there was 793 infections and 67 fatalities.

The state has already closed schools through the late April, banned events and ordered bars to close and restaurants to serve only take out or drive-thru options.

Postman said that the governor is constantly weighing various data points, like traffic or ER visits, as he determines if new actions need to be taken.

“I think it’s unlikely that what’s in place today will carry us through to the end of this outbreak,” he said. “The question is how much do you do, how do you do it. But no one should think we’re done imposing orders to keep people safe.”

On Friday, Inslee sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for him to declare a major disaster in the state. Such a declaration would enable additional federal assistance to residents affected by COVID-19. Those benefits include expanded unemployment assistance and basic food benefits.

“The state urgently requires additional supplemental federal emergency assistance in order to save lives, protect public health and safety, and limit further spread of the disease,” Inslee wrote.

AP reporter Martha Bellisle contributed from Seattle.

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