"This virus is going to spread across county lines:" Emergency declarations allow officials to move quickly in response to coronavirus

SEATTLE – Multiple counties and cities have declared an emergency over coronavirus, and so has Governor Jay Inslee.

“We can’t ship Washingtonians to Mars here,” said Inslee during a press conference Monday. “We need to care for them, and we need to find places to do this.”

That’s why across Puget Sound, so far three locations have been identified to either quarantine or isolate those exposed or infected by the virus and prevent them from spreading the disease.

“We need to accept medical reality here, this disease, this virus is going to spread across county lines,” Inslee said.

In Thurston County, an emergency declaration allows health officials to turn a portion of the Maple Lane corrections facility into a location for those sick to recover and minimize the virus’ spread.

A similar declaration allowed several quarantine and isolation trailers to be installed in White Center and more trailers and other locations within King County are likely to be announced soon. The declaration also allowed public health officials to turn a Kent motel into a recovery facility.

Snohomish County also declared an emergency Monday but has not yet said if it will isolate anyone infected.

The emergency declarations grant local officials broad authority and could restrict many more aspects of every-day routines.

“The state would have authority to issue mandatory quarantines,” said Inslee. “My sense is that at the moment we have really good cooperation widely.”

“Take a moment to remain calm, take a deep breath,” said Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda on Monday.

The Seattle City Council considered Mayor Jenny Durkan’s emergency declaration and heard from public health officials about the scramble to contain the outbreak.

“We’re going to get it wrong sometimes, we’re going to step on toes and I’m sure we’re going to overstep sometimes, but we really ask that you join us and be a partner with us,” said Dennis Worsham from Public Health – Seattle and King County. “If we have a blind spot, bring it to our attention and let’s work together as quick as we can.”

Gov. Inslee’s emergency declaration could also allow state and health officials to cancel major public gatherings, close schools and daycare facilities and even involuntarily quarantine those who have had contact with people exposed to Covid-19.

But instead, says Inslee, officials are counting on workers, employers and the public to be hygiene conscious, minimize contact with sick people and allow science to dictate the government’s response.

“We just need to look at Wuhan and what it eventually meant for their society where they had to come to full stop,” he said. “So, acting before we see mass casualties might be the most effective thing to do. We’re asking people to look ahead a few weeks and not be in the position of Wuhan, China.”

Inslee also announced Monday the state legislature approved $125 million in emergency funding to help pay for the response.