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Inslee says elective surgeries, outdoor recreation and some construction could restart as Washington begins to recover from coronavirus

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday evening announced a road map for reopening Washington’s economy that could soon allow the return of some elective surgeries, outdoor recreation and certain construction projects.

In a 5 p.m. televised public address, Inslee didn’t say when the stay-at-home order — scheduled to lift at the end of the day on May 4 — might start to be rolled back. The plan would only move forward, he said, once cases of the new coronavirus have fallen enough that the state is able to manage future outbreaks.

But Inslee said that data on cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, was beginning to look favorable.

If that continues, Inslee said, elective surgeries could begin again soon, as well as some outdoor recreation. Meanwhile, the governor’s office has agreed upon a plan with the construction industry and labor unions, “allowing limited return to construction with safety measures in place,” he said.

“We can modify some of these restrictions in the coming weeks, if the health modeling holds up,” Inslee said. But, “The health of Washingtonians is our top priority.”

The governor has said at least some restrictions are likely to stay in place longer than May 4.

Inslee’s three-part plan includes massive statewide testing, teams of workers performing contact tracing, resources for mental health and homelessness and a phased-in reopening of certain businesses while continuing social distancing.

The plan would make sure the state could quickly tamp down new outbreaks of COVID-19, reopen the economy in phases and help workers and businesses recover from the economic downturn.

The governor has emphasized that his decision to lift temporary restrictions such as the stay-at-home order — which shuttered thousands of businesses and maintained a ban on large gatherings — will be driven by public health data. One of the key indicators will be if the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to trend down over time.

As of Tuesday, there were 12,282 cases of COVOD-19 in Washington, including 682 deaths.

The plan envisions rapid and wide-scale testing across the state, as well as a surge in contact tracing. The state Department of Health (DOH) is working with county public health agencies to create a plan for extensive contact tracing, in which staff track down those who had direct contact with people who test positive for the coronavirus.

Inslee described the 1,500 people being brought on to do contact tracing — a mix of state and local health workers, members of the National Guard and volunteers — as a “rapid response” team. They could start operating by the second week of May, he added.

State officials aren’t saying yet how much it will cost. At a news briefing earlier in the day the governor’s chief of staff, David Postman, only said that Inslee told him to “go big, be aggressive and find people where you can get them.”

To successfully reopen, the state ultimately needs to be able to conduct between 20,000 and 30,000 tests daily for the

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