Inslees new mantra: Stay at home, stay healthy.
Inslee's new mantra: "Stay at home, stay healthy." John Moore / Getty Images

In response to mounting deaths and new infections from coronavirus, as well as reports that suggest calls for social distancing are not being followed well enough around Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee this evening issued a legally enforceable "stay at home" order that he says will be in effect for at least the next two weeks.

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“This weapon—distancing ourselves—is the only weapon we can use against this virus," Inslee said.

Non-essential businesses will be closed, funerals and weddings will be prohibited, and "if you want to have parties on the beach or play pickup basketball or have sleepovers—these are no longer allowed for at least a couple weeks," Inslee said.

But, the governor also made clear that Washington's 7.5 million residents can still go outside. “We all just need to practice social distance of at least six feet," Inslee said.

Acknowledging that this order "will close many businesses in our state," Inslee also listed "essential" types of work that will not be shut down. Among them are emergency service workers, health care providers, journalists, court workers, transportation workers, critical manufacturers, and defense industries.

The latest numbers from the state Department of Health show 110 coronavirus deaths and 2,221 confirmed cases in Washington, which saw the first death in the country from coronavirus in late February.

“The rapid growth in the number of cases has put our state, really, in a race against time," Inslee said. "The more of us who stay home, the fewer of us who will be affected by COVID 19 and the more lives that will be saved.”

The governor described the decision to issue a "stay at home" order as "a very difficult choice," and he certainly hasn't rushed it; Inslee's move came after governors in a number of other states—including Oregon and California—had already taken such steps.

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But he appeared to have decided that the need to take further action against the virus far outweighs the economic cost and personal hardships that will come from ordering Washingtonians to stay put.

“We want to get back to normal as soon as possible," Inslee said. "We do not want this lingering intrusion in our lives, and the fastest way to get back to normal is to hit this hard, and that’s what we’re doing.”

He suggested that while hunkering down, people look forward to the day when they can “toast the end of this" at re-opened bars, restaurants, and other favorite hangouts.