Considering the path to reopening the state: “Stay the course” in order to pave the way for a stronger recovery.

Gov. Jay Inslee may soon order an extension of his “stay home” order, reports The Seattle Times.

The order is currently scheduled to lift at the end of the day on May 4, but the governor has said parts of it would continue for longer.

“We hope we will be able to tell you what the date of the extension will be by the end of this week,” said Inslee chief of staff David Postman in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.”But I’m not 100% sure we will do that, but we’re certainly going to try to share that as soon as we can.”

Some restrictions have been eased recently by the governor. The Seattle Times editorial board counsels caution. So, too, in an op-ed for the Times, do King County Council vice-chairman Reagan Dunn and former Congressman Dave Reichert.

Noting the reopening of some activities, the editorial says,

But the slow return to activity comes with an important caveat — we must act carefully to ensure the immediate beneficial effects on individuals, businesses and the economy are not overshadowed by increases in infection, illness and death..

As the governor and others have repeatedly advised, reopening Washington will not be a matter of flipping a switch. It will be the calculated turn of a dial.

As the state slowly and deliberately reopens for play and business, it is important to be patient. We are by no means out of the woods.

Dunn and Reichert write,

The state of our economy will ultimately parallel our community’s health recovery, and the best thing we can do for both is to stay committed to reasonable social distancing efforts.

They cite a study of the 1918 pandemic that

…found that while pandemics are unavoidably destructive to the economy, the economic damage isn’t deepened by increased social distancing — it’s lessened, because containing the pandemic helps speed the economy to a full recovery.

This assessment is shared by economic analysts at Morgan Stanley, who argue that the most important aspect of recovery will be consumer and investor confidence that the worst of the virus is over. If we reopen the economy before that confidence is restored, it will be all risk and little reward.

Echoing the editorial, they conclude,

However, our community’s physical and economic recovery will happen sooner if we stay the course just a little longer.

Few would disagree with the policy prescriptions suggested by these two articles. We commend them both to you. 

We were also struck by the general alignment between the two pieces and the letter sent to West Coast governors by employer associations in Oregon, Washington, and California. The letter sets out principles to guide the reopening of state economies. The last principle:

Reviving our economy, and building strength for the long-term, must become a priority. As we said above, business agrees that the health of our states’ residents must be our top priority. But we also urge you to prioritize reviving the economy.

Striking the right balance will determine the timing and strength of the post-pandemic recovery.