On Sunday, Nov. 15 Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new, statewide shutdown of many in-person activities and commerce, including significant restrictions for restaurants, bars, gyms, cultural events and in-person gatherings. Inslee’s latest order is in response to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Washington and across the nation.
Towards the end of his Sunday morning press conference, Inslee responded to a question about why his new orders didn’t extend to schools. His response hinted that perhaps his thinking around whether and how schools can re-open safely has evolved. Below is a transcript of his answer.
Gov. Inslee: “Schools have been historically a local control decision by local school boards and local communities. We have respected that decision-making of local communities. We have given recommendations [to school districts]. We have tried to share science with them.
We’ve had a number of districts that have been quite successful in this state in this regard.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
Now I will say one other thing as well.
I think there is an emerging science of schools, and again, this is not totally clear cut, but it does appear that numerous schools are being able to show, to the surprise of many, a way to have – particularly younger students – in on-site education that has not resulted in widespread communicable transmission.
And the reason is they’ve been able to find a way to have students not talking to one other without masks, like [what] happens in restaurants, and they have found a way to spread students out, maybe have hybrid programs.
We’ve had a number of districts that have been quite successful in this state in this regard. So we don’t believe it was in our place to close those down.”
You can watch the entire press conference here. You can listen to the portion of the press conference (at the 1:05:00 mark) where he talks about promising research on the safety of in-person learning here.