New statewide COVID-19 restrictions announced

 

Last updated 11/18/2020 at 9:41am

A member of Grand Coulee Fitness gets one last workout in before the gym closes Monday night for four weeks on new Covid restrictions ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday. - Scott Hunter photo

After Washington families were asked last week not to gather with people outside their households over the coming holidays, the governor added more details and broader restrictions in a modified order Sunday.

If you get together for Thanksgiving with people not living with you, you'll be going against that ask, - unless you had already begun to quarantine by Friday and you keep it up until Thanksgiving, or keep it up for seven days prior and get a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours of the gathering.

Washington's restaurants will not be able to offer indoor seating for four weeks, which includes Thanksgiving. Other indoor businesses face complete shutdowns in an attempt to pre-empt the overwhelming of health care systems seen across the country in other states recently due to the pandemic.

Washington state has seen "consistent increasing daily case counts, with over 2,000 cases a day over the weekend and average cases in the state doubling over the past two weeks," the governor's office stated in a Medium post detailing the four-week restrictions.


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Indoor gatherings have been the biggest cause of spikes in the disease in the state and nationwide. Gov. Jay Inslee noted while answering questions in a livestreamed press conference Sunday that two weeks ago the state's daily case count was in the 600s, but Sunday was over 2,200, "a more dangerous position" than the state was in last March.

Inslee compared the increase in cases to a rapidly spreading fire requiring a fast response with measures known to work, mainly restrictions on indoor activities in places that bring people together, such as restaurants and exercise gyms.

As of midnight Monday, Nov. 16 (effectively Tuesday), Inslee said, modified restrictions are ordered for many sectors, but not all. Restaurants and bars have an extra day to modify operations to not include indoor dining.

Schools, childcare, courts and court-related proceedings are exempt from the new restrictions and should follow the previous guidance.

In-store retail, grocery stores and personal services are limited to 25% of occupancy and must close any congregate areas. Grocery stores were previously limited to 30% of occupancy.

Indoor gyms must close, although outdoor activities will be permitted with up to five people. And only outdoor sporting activities, with face coverings, are OK.

Bowling alleys, museums and movie theaters must also close.

Religious services, with face coverings, are limited to 25% occupancy or 200 people, whichever is fewer. No choirs, bands or ensembles are allowed, although soloists are.

Weddings and funeral can go on with limited attendance, but receptions are prohibited.

"We understand that this is both an economic and a public health crisis. We do not take lightly the impact these restrictions will have on local businesses, many of which have already had a very difficult year. You are not alone, and we will continue to provide supports," Inslee said.

To help mitigate financial impacts on businesses and their employees, the state will commit $50 million in aid, Inslee said, and the state's unemployment safety net, overwhelmed earlier this year, is now in shape to handle a surge.

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said in a statement shortly after the announcement, "Whether customers need to restart their claim or are coming to us for the first time, all the information they need can be found at esd.wa.gov. While there will always be new challenges to address, we have learned much throughout this crisis that will help in the weeks and months ahead. We have updated our information, increased our staff, clarified claimant questions and upgraded our technology to handle this demand."

 

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