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caption: STG's Neptune Theatre among Seattle organizations closed for business
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STG's Neptune Theatre among Seattle organizations closed for business
Credit: KUOW Photo/Paige Browning

Lockdown Tuesday: Defining ‘essential’

The news is moving fast these days. People are ordered to stay home, businesses are shutting down, and the coronavirus continues to infect more people.

KUOW's Paige Browning tells us what’s new today.

It's day one of Washington state's Stay Home order. People are learning whether going to work is essential for them, and whether they need to work from home or shut the business doors.

Also today, Seattle and King County jails are trying to reduce the inmate population to limit coronavirus spread in jails.

Additionally, a TSA worker at SeaTac Airport has a confirmed case of COVID-19. So has a worker at Western State Hospital who works with kids.

In national news, the stock markets jumped way up again. The Dow Jones burst 11% higher, after Congress and the White House got closer to a deal to inject money into the economy,

The statewide order here in Washington means people need to stay home unless it's essential to leave, which raises the question, when is it essential?

For personal reasons, this can include getting supplies, like going to the store, caring for someone else, medical appointments, and outdoor exercise.

And essential work also continues. This is actually a long list. There's a 14-page document by the state on what work is essential. Here's an abbreviated list: healthcare providers, nursing homes, veterinarians, grocery store workers, convenience stores, farmers, people who operate utilities, banks, and of course airports.

I've also heard of cannabis retailers staying open, some other businesses as well that might surprise people. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Marijuana farms can stay open because they're part of agriculture. Marijuana stores can stay open, in part, because people use them for medical reasons. Liquor stores can stay open if they sell food.

Also, day care centers can stay open if they have less than 10 kids. Hotels are essential. And, artists who are performing through streaming services. They're considered essential.

Remind us why are we being ordered to stay at home?

You remember that officials already asked people to stay home? Not everyone was following that request. King County Executive Dow Constantine talked about this today on KUOW's The Record.

“So many people took this work at home directive as the opportunity for a holiday, and did things that were not protective of themselves or others," he said. "I got reports of crowded ferries heading to the San Juans with a bunch of knuckleheads partying like it's the 4th of July picnic and people all over the place, and pick up basketball games.”

That's Constantine basically saying we asked you to stay home, you all didn't, so now it's an order.

And the number of coronavirus cases has more than doubled in the past week in Washington. This is a disease that can kill people who are older or who have immune systems that can't fight it.

And of course, health officials saying this is our best defense, so that we don't swamp the hospital. There was another executive order today. King County is ordering correction officials to lower the number of people in County jails. What does this order do?

This is huge. There are more than 1,600 inmates now in King County. The goal is to get that down to 1,200 inmates according to Dow Constantine. He signed an executive order today to suspend the work release program. That's about 80 inmates. And, jails will not book people who are charged with misdemeanors or who violate their community supervision.

Any news from the business front?

What I've noticed is some businesses are just getting really creative right now. We're seeing whiskey distilleries and vodka distilleries start to make hand sanitizer. Pike Place Market is now doing grocery delivery. And we're seeing a lot of creative types move from making costumes to making face masks instead.

And of course, a lot of arts events are happening online. And I suspect that a lot of people are getting into new hobbies, because you had to buy me flour because I couldn't find it myself. I think a lot of people are experimenting in the kitchen now.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.