On Wednesday morning, March 11, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new community strategies and social distancing plans in order to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Starting today, events of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties are prohibited, in order to slow the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve” of the outbreak.

This order applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities, including but not limited to: community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers and similar activities.

“This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can’t wait until we’re in the middle of it to slow it down,” Inslee said. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”

As of Wednesday morning, 24 people in Washington state have died from the virus, and the World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak a pandemic. Confirmed cases are over 260 statewide.

“You might be killing your granddad if you don’t do it,” Inslee said. “I’m serious.”

Here’s a chart Inslee showed to illustrate how measures like this may help slow the infection rate:

Some look to Italy’s current country-wide quarantine as a potential model for what might happen here, and one Italian doctor has spoken out.

“Try to have mercy on that myriad of older people you could exterminate,” Dr. Daniele Macchini, an intensive care unit physician at the Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital in Bergamo, Italy, said. “It is not your fault, I know, but of those who put it in your head that you are exaggerating and even this testimony may seem just an exaggeration for those who are far from the epidemic, but please, listen to us, try to leave the house only to (do) indispensable things.”

Inslee was joined by Dow Constantine, King County Executive, Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive, Dave Sommers, Snohomish County Executive, Mayor of Seattle Jenny Durkan, Mayor of Everett Cassie Franklin, and Mayor of Tacoma Victoria Woodards.

Watch the full press conference here:

This statement was released as Inslee spoke:

As nurses and healthcare workers providing essential care to patients in hospitals, clinics, and housing and shelters across Washington state, we applaud Gov. Jay Inslee and the leaders of King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties for taking the necessary step of limiting large gatherings during this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Prohibiting events is a common-sense measure that will help protect our community members from the novel coronavirus.

This measure will also help frontline health care workers and our health care system as a whole effectively respond to this crisis by “flattening the curve” of coronavirus patients seeking care. As health care workers on the front lines of responding to this public health emergency, we support all efforts to reduce the impact on our ability to provide care by lowering the daily number of patients coming into a system that is already stressed by the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

We understand that state and local governments and public health agencies are responding proactively to the existing risks created by this new disease in an effort to minimize those risks and keep our healthcare delivery system accessible to all who may need it.

In our role as caregivers, we are often called on to tell patients the truth about their health. The truth we want our community to hear is this: Social distancing, like that enforced by the measure announced today, is one of the very best ways to prevent the spread of epidemic illness. This temporary change in behavior will help protect all of us from the spread of COVID-19, as well as from cold and flu illnesses common during this time of year.

The most vulnerable COVID-19 patients—those age 65 or older or with underlying health conditions—may need intensive hospital care, and it is essential that we preserve hospital intensive and critical care beds for those most vulnerable patients. Social distancing is a public health measure that will help prevent our health system from being overwhelmed, and will make it easier for anyone with the novel coronavirus to access necessary hospital care.

As nurses and health care workers, we care deeply for our patients and take pride in the roles we play on the front lines of patient care, particularly during a time of heightened concern for community health. Our continued safety during this outbreak is critical to our ability to continue to provide quality patient care. We continue to call on the CDC to proactively and effectively target the supply of respirators and use other controls to reduce the risk of infection in health care workers, knowing that our professionals are at the highest risk of infection. We will continue to work closely with health care employers and with federal and local public health agencies to ensure all caregivers have access to the highest level of personal protective equipment available so we can continue to provide the high-quality health care our communities require.

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