Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.
Governor Inslee also said he was "shocked" by President Trump's claim that testing problems are a thing of the past. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

First, the attempted gubernatorial fact check: As he closed out a press conference in Olympia today, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee said he was "shocked" to hear President Trump tell American governors that coronavirus testing problems are a thing of the past.

"The White House knows very well about this desperate need for test kits," Inslee said.

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He made the comment at the end of an event that was otherwise focused on enforcing this state's social distancing rules, which Inslee noted are producing good results in the Seattle area.

But, Inslee warned, the available testing in Washington state now shows concerning numbers of new coronavirus infections in more rural areas, where the governor fears some people aren't taking social distancing rules as seriously because they haven't yet seen up close the harm and death COVID-19 can cause.

"But it is coming," Inslee said. "It is coming, and people need to understand that.”

Numbers of new infections in some rural counties, Inslee reported today, “are two to three times higher than what we’ve experienced in the week before. It is very alarming to us, frankly."

The very real potential for coronavirus hot spots to develop outside of King County is a reminder, Inslee said, that all Washingtonians need to follow his "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.

And if they don't?

Inslee said warnings will be the first step, but that violators who persist could, as a last resort, face charges and court dates if they don't close non-essential businesses, give up non-essential trips on state roadways, and abandon group gatherings.

He then brought out Attorney General Bob Ferguson and state law enforcement leaders to explain all this in more detail, and Ferguson led off by echoing the governor's hope for "100 percent voluntary compliance."

Ferguson said he doesn't want to use his powers against people flouting social distancing rules, "But if necessary, I will. The reason is simple. Lives literally depend on it.”

The AG's office appears to be focused on enforcing the governor's closure of non-essential businesses, and to that end Ferguson's office will first issue warning letters to state businesses that are open when they shouldn't be, and then, if necessary, pursue charges.

Ferguson warned that non-essential businesses that fail to close are endangering public health, potentially engaging in unfair labor practices, and possibly running afoul of unfair competition rules, too.

Inslee asked that people seeking to report violators not call 911, but instead use this online form.

Ferguson added that his office has been hearing complaints about some landlords "getting creative" in attempting to push people out of rentals despite the governor's 30-day moratorium on evictions.

“Putting families on the street during this public health emergency is not right," Ferguson said. “We cannot have folks being evicted while this moratorium is in place. That’s bad for everybody’s health.”

So the AG is encouraging people facing eviction, through "creative" means or otherwise, to contact his office. He promised his staff would follow up to ensure both "the letter and the intent" of the governor's moratorium is enforced.

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The law enforcement leaders, for their part, didn't sound like they were gearing up for mass arrests. But one local police chief made clear that the public shouldn't mistake their requests for voluntary compliance to mean that compliance is optional.

Inslee repeated that Washingtonians are free to go outside for fresh air and exercise, so long as they keep an appropriate distance from others. He also said people are allowed to drive to grocery stores and medical facilities for required trips.

But for other, perhaps more frivolous outings, Inslee suggested people "tape a photograph of a nurse" to their dashboard, consider how overworked and endangered front-line healthcare workers are right now because of coronavirus's continued spread, "And really say to yourself, 'Is this trip really necessary?'”

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