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Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) called a rare news conference on Sunday to order broad, four-week restrictions intended to contain a “third wave” of coronavirus transmission he says is rapidly spreading across the state.
Inslee announced a ban on multi-household indoor social gatherings unless the guests quarantine for 14 days prior to the occasion, or quarantine for seven days and receive a negative COVID-19 test 48 hours before the event. The restrictions also prohibit indoor dining at restaurants and bars, while imposing a 25% occupancy limit for grocery and retail stores.
Most of the changes take effect on Monday at 11:59 p.m. local time through December 14. However, changes applying to restaurants and bars begin Wednesday at 12:01 a.m.
Today is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history. A pandemic is raging in Washington.
Today, we are taking action to stop it. https://t.co/p7IWK3GFUG
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) November 15, 2020
Religious services will also be limited to a quarter capacity, or no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer. No choirs or congregational singing permitted. Face coverings required at all times.
Outdoor gatherings are capped to no more than five persons.
“Today is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Gov. Inslee tweeted on Sunday afternoon. “A pandemic is raging in Washington. Today, we are taking action to stop it.”
All K-12 schools and institutions of higher education are exempt, as most are already operating remotely. The restrictions also do not apply to childcare facilities, which operate under separate guidelines.
Gyms and health clubs are ordered closed for indoor operations. Movie theaters, bowling alleys, and aquariums must also shut down.
According to the Seattle Times, “offices are required to mandate employees work from home, if possible, and must limit occupancy to 25% if they remain open.” The outlet also reported that weddings and funerals could proceed as long as no more than 30 people attend, but receptions would be prohibited.
At the Sunday press conference, Inslee said, “We are, today, in a more dangerous position than we were in March,” adding that “the time has come to reinstate some of the restrictions on activities statewide to preserve our well-being, and to save lives.”
Washington state health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy, who also spoke at the presser, said the coronavirus surge was “simply not sustainable.”
“We will eventually exceed the capacity in our hospitals to adequately care for all patients, including patients with and without COVID, and ultimately will lead to more deaths,” she said.
As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:
Inslee warned of coming restrictions Thursday, as Washington was among the majority of states in the country facing sharp increases in daily cases. As of Friday, November had 12 days with more than 1,000 daily cases. On Friday and Saturday, the state reported more than 2,000 new cases each day. Saturday continued the streak of breaking daily case records. Inslee said during the Sunday news conference that Sunday could be another record-breaking day.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Washington has reported 127,731 cases, 9,281 hospitalizations and 2,519 deaths.
Washington wasn’t alone in bringing back restrictions. On Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a two-week freeze to stop a rapid spread. Her measure stopped indoor dining as well, and closed gyms and other recreational activities, indoors and outdoors.
Information provided by Gov. Inslee’s office indicates the state will commit $50 million in aid to businesses to help lessen the damage that the rollbacks are expected to have on the economy.
Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, reportedly called the restriction on indoor dining “devastating” and said it could lead to the loss of 100,000 hospitality jobs as the holiday season approaches.
It's clear that @GovInslee has NO PLAN to help struggling businesses that will struggle even more under *his* new mandates. He keeps hoping the federal government just covers for his actions.
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) November 15, 2020
“These were very difficult decisions that have very real consequences to people’s livelihoods,” Inslee said on Sunday. “I recognize that and don’t take those impacts lightly, but we must act now and act quickly to slow the spread of the disease.”