Washington governor hints mandatory orders may be coming to stem spread of coronavirus

Mar 8, 2020

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says mandatory social distancing measures may be required to stem the spread of coronavirus.

"We are contemplating some next steps, particularly to protect our vulnerable populations and our nursing homes and [the] like and we are looking to determine whether mandatory measures are required," Inslee said in an interview Sunday morning with CBS's "Face the Nation."

Washington has emerged as the epicenter of the nation's coronavirus outbreak with more than 100 cases in six counties and at least 16 deaths. The virus has also been detected in at least four nursing homes. Inslee, who previously declared a coronavirus state of emergency, said that voluntary measures have been working and that more Washingtonians are telecommuting and avoiding large gatherings. But he also said those voluntary measures may not be enough.

"We may have to go to the next step and we are thinking about those seriously to get ahead of this curve," Inslee said, adding that he would be meeting with state officials Sunday to discuss additional measures.

Asked if that could mean mandatory quarantines -- like in Italy -- or "shutting down" the city of Seattle, Inslee said not necessarily. But he did hint at requiring the cancellation of large events and other steps the public could find disruptive and restrictive.

"[This] could be hard for the public because they may not have seen the full wave yet," Inslee told CBS's Margaret Brennan. "We need to anticipate that wave, get ahead of it."

An Inslee spokesperson said Sunday morning that the governor was meeting with the state Department of Health, affected local public health agencies and city officials to discuss options, but that final decisions were not  immediately expected. 

Also during the interview, Inslee was asked to address comments that President Donald Trump made Friday about the Democratic governor. Trump called Inslee "a snake" and said he had told Vice President Mike Pence not to be complimentary of Inslee during a visit to Washington state on Thursday.

"We have a lot of problems with the governor," Trump said during a visit to the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control in Atlanta.

Asked by Brennan if politics are complicating the response to coronavirus in Washington state, Inslee said his focus is on public health, "not on political gamesmanship" and added that the vice president has been helpful and that he's had good meetings with federal agency directors.

"I don't really care too much what Donald Trump thinks of me and we just kind of ignore that, it's background noise because we really need to work together, Republicans and Democrats, this is a national crisis," Inslee said.

Inslee said the state is getting the help it needs from the federal government, including shipments of desperately needed medical supplies -- namely masks and gowns -- from the Strategic National Stockpile. But he also called for a massive mobilization of the private supply chain to provide more protective medical equipment nationally.

"We need to do what we did in World War II to mobilize that supply chain," Inslee said.

The governor also called for the acceleration of coronavirus testing and the rapid certification of private labs to conduct the tests for the fast-spreading virus.