Inslee warns of more coronavirus restrictions if rules ignored

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee warned Friday that while he has not yet enacted more stringent social distancing requirements to fight the spread of coronavirus like those imposed by California, New York and other states, if people continue to ignore current requirements he “will go farther to protect 7 million Washingtonians.”

The state has already closed schools through late April, banned events and large gatherings and ordered bars to close and restaurants to serve only take out or drive-thru options. But in some Seattle parks and beaches large crowds have gathered during recent sunny days.

“We remain concerned that some of our state are not taking the measures that are absolutely necessary to preserve health and life and limb in the state of Washington,” Inslee said at a news conference Friday night.

Shortly after Inslee’s news conference authorities announced that King County and Seattle were closing sports courts, playground equipment and other recreation areas. King County said ballfields and playfields were open for walking. Parks and beaches where people could space out would also remain open.

Washington has reported at least 83 deaths from COVID-19, the most in the United States, and more than 1,500 confirmed cases. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

Inslee also said that he was working on a proclamation to ensure older workers and those with underlying health conditions “have a legal right to leave the workplace to protect their health and self-isolate for the duration of this outbreak.”

“Employers have got to do their part to help flatten this curve,” he said.

Also 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.