Washington, Oregon and California to coordinate on plan to re-open economies and fight COVID-19

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Artists have painted signs of encouragement on boarded storefronts throughout Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

West Coast states unveiled a unified approach to lifting lockdown orders and combating COVID-19 on Monday. The governors of Washington, Oregon, and California said they will only re-open their economies once COVID-19’s rate of spread is on the decline.

“This effort will be guided by data,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said in the announcement. “We need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening, and we will be working in coordination to identify the best metrics to guide this.”

The states will focus on four objectives now that their rates of new infections are slowing. They include protecting vulnerable populations, supporting the healthcare industry, mitigating the indirect health impacts of the pandemic on disadvantaged communities, and implementing a system of testing and tracking to protect the general public.

The announcement follows a similar move by the governors of six East Coast states. A few hours before the states unveiled their unified approaches, President Donald Trump said the authority to re-open economies lies with the federal government.

Over the weekend, Washington state surpassed 10,000 coronavirus cases. Washington slipped further down the list of U.S. states in total coronavirus cases, now with the 13th highest total, according to the New York Times.

“Through quick and decisive action, each of our states has made significant progress in flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19 among the broader public,” Inslee’s office said.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control shows that social distancing orders in four U.S. cities — Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans — successfully curbed movement and likely slowed the spread of the virus. But COVID-19 is spreading faster in some cities, like New York, than others despite similar isolation orders.

“This analysis reinforces other recent studies that show people in our community are heeding public health directives to stay home and the spread of COVID-19 is slowing,” said Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, in a statement. “But before we can feel comfortable relaxing social distancing measures, we need to further decrease transmission and have widespread testing availability and public health systems in place to quickly identify people who are infected and their close contacts to help them isolate and quarantine.”

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