Gov. Jay Inslee today announced a four-week statewide set of restrictions in response to the recent rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus in Washington and across the country.
The new restrictions come as Washington sees 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.
“This spike puts us in a more dangerous a position as we were in March,” Inslee said during a press conference Sunday. “And it means, unfortunately, the time has come to reinstate restrictions on activities statewide to preserve the public’s well-being, and to save lives. These were very difficult decisions that have very real consequences to people’s livelihoods. I recognize that and don’t take those impacts lightly, but we must act now and act quickly to slow the spread of this disease.”
The restrictions are statewide and will take effect Monday, November 16 at 11:59 PM and will remain in effect until Monday, December 14. The modified restrictions of restaurants, however, will take effect Wednesday, November 18 at 12:01 AM.
To help mitigate financial impacts on businesses and their employees, the state will commit $50 million in aid. In the short term, the state is commuting $20 million be dedicated to cash assistance targeted directly to hardest hit industries. Remaining funds will be focused on supporting recovery efforts through business loans. Additional details are forthcoming.
“This is absolutely the right time to take action,” said Dr. George Diaz, infectious disease physician at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. “It will save the lives of many Washingtonians, provide relief to our most precious resources, which are our front-line healthcare workers, and allow us to continue to provide the full array of medical and surgical care that our state needs.”
Activities not included in the modified restrictions should follow current guidance. All K-12/higher education, child care, and courts and court-related proceedings are exempt from the new restrictions.
Indoor gatherings have been one of the biggest driving factors of COVID-19 spikes in Washington and nation-wide. Because of this, indoor gatherings with people outside the household will be prohibited unless they quarantine for the fourteen days (14) prior to the social gathering or quarantine for the seven (7) days prior to the gathering, and receive a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 48-hours prior to the gathering. Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people.
For long-term care facilities, only outdoor visits will be allowed. Indoor visits may be permitted for essential support persons or end-of-life care.
Restaurants and retail
Restaurants and bars will be closed for indoor service, with to-go services and restricted outdoor dining allowed.
In-store retail, grocery stores and personal services are limited to 25% of occupancy and must close any congregate areas.
Religious services, weddings and funerals
Religious services will be limited to 25% indoor capacity or 200 people, whichever is less, and choirs, bands or ensembles are prohibited from performing. Wedding and funeral ceremonies can go on with limited attendance, but receptions of any size are prohibited indoors.
Entertainment and fitness
Indoor service will be closed at fitness facilities and gyms, and youth and adult amateur sporting activities are limited to outdoors only with facial coverings.
Bowling alleys, museums, zoos, aquariums, and movie theaters will be closed for indoor services.
“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.
“There is light at the end of this tunnel. We will continue to fight, adapt and persevere. It may be months before we’re totally out of the clear, but medical advances are putting us closer to the goal of restoring all activities eventually. For now, we have to keep everyone’s interests in mind and take steps that protect all Washingtonians.”