OLYMPIA – Three West Coast states will coordinate the way they will end orders for most people to stay home and bring back their economies, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday.
While they won’t necessarily move in lockstep on a date to end those orders, Washington, Oregon and California have formed a pact to develop the protocols and procedures to make decisions on how to restart public life and business.
There’s no specific date to end the orders, Inslee emphasized at an afternoon news conference Monday. Instead the three states are trying to determine “clear indicators” the COVID-19 pandemic is under control and can be kept there with adequate testing and contact tracing.
They’ll be looking at the rates of infection and mortality, the hospital admissions for COVID-like symptoms and relying on the advice of medical experts, he said. Because those could vary among the states, all three won’t necessarily end their stay-home orders on the same date.
“They may apply at a different date, depending on where their state is in their curve, in their data, in their infection rate,” Inslee said. One state might also be able to institute some part of the protocols, such as contact tracing, faster that the others.
The announcement of the West Coast pact came as a similar agreement was being discussed for six Northeastern states. It also comes as President Donald Trump is calling for the U.S. economy to reopen on May 1, which is three days earlier than Washington’s current “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, which also limits work outside the home to essential jobs.
Trump claimed the “total” authority Monday to decide how and when to reopen the economy after weeks of tough social distancing guidelines aimed at fighting the new coronavirus. But governors from both parties were quick to push back, according to the Associated Press, noting they have the primary constitutional responsibility for ensuring public safety in their states and would decide when it’s safe to begin a return to normal operations.
“When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said at Monday’s White House coronavirus briefing. “The governors know that.”
He declined to offer specifics about the source of that claim, which governors asserted was a vast power grab. Nor did the president discuss plans for reopening the economy.
Inslee said while he remains in contact with Vice President Mike Pence and other federal officials, the president can’t rescind his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, which was issued under state law.
“We see no authority from any source that would give the president the authority to countermand that decision,” Inslee said.
Inslee’s current order tentatively goes through May 4, but the decision to lift it will depend on data which is being reviewed on a daily basis.
“It could be longer. I suppose possibly it could be shorter,” he said. “It doesn’t do us a lot of good just ruminating on possibilities.”
Inslee said he hasn’t had a chance yet to discuss any coordination with Idaho Gov. Brad Little.
“I understand he’s having some controversy with his plans in Idaho, so we have that issue that he’s got to work through,” Inslee said. “We can talk to him. I see no reason not to do that…when he gets Idaho in a little more consensus position, I’d be happy to talk to him.”
The agreement was reached among the three West Coast governors who have coordinated on other issues in recent years.
Under the agreement, the three states will work with their local leaders and communities to adhere to the agreed-upon approach.
The goals of that approach will be to protect populations most at risk for severe consequences, including nursing homes and long-term care facilities; ensure the ability to treat patients with adequate hospital surge capacity and personal protective equipment supplies; mitigate indirect health impacts and protect the public with a system of testing, tracking and isolating cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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