Trending: Amazon employee at Seattle-area warehouse tests positive for COVID-19
Gov. Jay Inslee gives an address Monday evening, ordering residents to stay at home amid the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo via Gov. Jay Inslee/Medium)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday ordered all residents except essential workers to stay at home for at least two weeks, the strictest measure to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the state so far.

The ordinance applies to all gatherings, including weddings and funerals. Non-essential businesses that can’t operate by telecommuting must close within 48 hours. Businesses can ask the state for essential status to remain open. Washingtonians are still allowed to go for walks and spend time outside as long as they stay six feet away from other people.

Inslee has been reluctant to issue such an order, even as California, New York, and other jurisdictions did. He said during an address Monday, “we’ve been thoughtful and deliberate in making these very tough choices … but people still aren’t practicing these precautions and that is one of the reasons we have to take these steps.”

The order does not apply to emergency services, manufacturing, food and agriculture, transportation, or financial services. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and food delivery services will remain open, as will cannabis, liquor, and convenience stores. Inslee said he expects voluntary participation but stressed that the ordinance, “is enforceable by law.”

The latest numbers from the Washington Department of Health reveal 2,221 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 110 people have died from the virus in the state. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the U.S., with Washington state among the hardest hit.

The pandemic is roiling financial markets, shuttering small businesses, slashing gig economy workers’ income, and forcing startups to make tough decisions.

Hours before Inslee’s press conference, the Seattle-based digital cannabis brand Leafly announced 91 layoffs. The company has cut more than half of its staff this year.

Boeing began shutting down operations in the Seattle area on Monday following the death of an employee due to the virus.

Last week, The Pacific Science Center let more than 300 people go. Meanwhile, co-working startup The Riveter and clothing rental service Armoire are using a Washington state policy that lets companies put employees on a temporary layoff, which allows workers to collect unemployment benefits with the expectation to return to work.

Washington has seen some success in reducing citizens’ movement by closing restaurants, bars, and recreational facilities. Large employers in the state — like Microsoft and Amazon — as well as smaller companies are asking all employees who can telecommute to do so. But cities under shelter at home orders, like San Francisco and New York, have seen a sharper decrease in activity than Seattle.

“I make this difficult choice knowing it will add to the economic and family hardship many in our state are already feeling as we try to slow and turn back this pandemic … we want to get back to normal as soon as possible,” Inslee said.

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