Story at a glance
- The order is aimed at sporting events, festivals, concerts and similar gatherings to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
- At least 24 people have died in Washington state from COVID-19, mostly in the Seattle area.
- The order will cover roughly 4 million people.
Washington state is banning events that include gatherings of more than 250 people in three counties in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Events banned through the end of March include concerts, sporting events, religious services and similar gatherings across King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, an area that covers roughly 4 million people. The largest concentrations of confirmed coronavirus cases are in King and Snohomish counties.
"This is an extremely dangerous event that we are facing, but we are not helpless," Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said during a press conference Wednesday.
The state has 267 confirmed cases, but Inslee said there are likely "hundreds if not thousands" of people in the state who have the virus but are unaware of it.
READ MORE OF OUR BREAKING NEWS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS
"These are not easy decisions. The decisions that we're making today and the decisions we probably will be making in the upcoming days are going to be profoundly disturbing to a lot of the ways we live our lives today," he said. "But I believe they are the right ones."
Several large concerts and events nationwide have been canceled to avoid large gatherings of people, and universities across the country have canceled in-person classes.
Washington state has been hit the hardest in the U.S. during the COVID-19 outbreak, as at least 24 people in the state have died, the bulk of which are linked to a Seattle nursing home. Inslee declared a state of emergency last month over the virus outbreak.
More than 1,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. with at least 31 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SEE MORE ABOUT THE CURRENT CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC