SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — The city streets in Edmonds were mainly deserted Monday as a "stay at home" order took effect.
Over the weekend, Mayor Mike Nelson mandated that business owners and almost everyone else "shelter in place," in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
"This is sort of the option of last resort," Nelson said.
In Edmonds, the situation is especially serious with 25% of the population older than 60, which is a group that is susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
That is why the city took the added measure of allowing police to cite people who violate the "stay-at-home" order, with penalties up to a $500 fine or 90 days in jail.
On Monday, Edmonds city parks were gated off and public bathrooms closed after a sunny weekend saw countless people flocking to beaches and ignoring health advice about keeping a safe distance from other people.
The Edmonds move follows a similar one in Everett that also took effect Monday. Both cities made their announcements before Gov. Jay Inslee announced Washington state's "stay-at-home" order.
There are some exceptions to the stay-at-home rule. People may still go grocery shopping, go to work or care for family members.
The order also doesn't apply to construction workers, health care workers, food service workers, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, laundromats and other essential services.
"We are by no means going to actively seek out individuals to see if they are complying with the order for the purpose of charging them with a crime," said Edmonds acting police chief Jim Lawless. "It's about education and getting information to the public as much as we can."
"This is something I believe most citizens will do voluntarily," Nelson said. "But we just needed this additional step to make it so."
Nelson said people are encouraged to get out of the house, take walks and exercise, but to avoid groups and follow social distancing rules when doing so.