Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee issued broad new statewide restrictions and shutdowns for restaurants, gyms, theaters and all indoor gatherings during a Sunday morning address.
Most of the orders are effective at 11:59 pm Monday, with the exception of restaurants and bars, which go into effect at 11:59 pm on Tuesday. The order expires on December 14.
“In order to slow the spread of rapidly increasing COVID cases in our state, and ensure that hospital and medical systems are not overwhelmed, we are taking the very difficult but necessary steps to protect public health,” Inslee said. “We recognize this will cause financial hardship for many businesses and we are exploring ways to mitigate the impacts.”
He ordered restaurants and bars to shutdown indoor service and to limit outdoor service to parties of five or less. Indoor gyms and fitness centers must also shutdown, along with movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums. Indoor gatherings with people outside your household will be prohibited unless participants have quarantined for 14 days, tested negative and quarantine for seven days prior or receive a negative COVID-19 test within two days of the planned gathering.
“Indoor social gatherings from people outside your home are prohibited unless they have been quarantined for 14 days,” Inslee said. “You can get the virus in your own home.”
This is the most extensive mandate since Inslee’s March emergency stay at home order. The new orders do not apply to K-12 schools or the court system. They also do not apply to child care.
“Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”
Despite a statewide mask mandate, which was issued in June, and current restrictions on businesses, the pandemic has been rapidly spreading in Washington. The state, for the last two weeks, has been breaking previous infection records almost daily.
“We need to preserve our well being,” said Inslee. “I share your frustration, but we need to hold the pandemic down until the calvary arrives (referring to a vaccine).”
Two weeks ago, the state recorded a then-record 1,469 coronavirus infections. By Nov. 14, daily infections had increased more than 50 percent and stood at 2,233 infections, according to Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer. The day Inslee issued his stay-home order in March, there were 225 confirmed infections.
Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to no more than five people from outside your household, Inslee said. Religious services can continue, but must limit indoor attendance to 25 percent of capacity, or 200 people, whatever is less. Masks must be worn at all times and choirs, bands and congregational singing will be prohibited. Wedding and funeral ceremonies will be limited to 30 people. Receptions are prohibited.
Retail stores, including grocery stores, and malls must limit occupancy to 25 percent and must close food court seating.
Offices are required to mandate employees work from home, if possible, and must limit occupancy to 25 percent if they remain open. They must be closed to the public.
Long-term care facilities can accept visitors only in outdoor settings, with limited exceptions for end-of-life care and essential support personnel.
Personal services, such as barber shops and salons, are limited to 25 percent capacity. Real estate open houses are prohibited. Youth and adult sports are limited to outdoor only intrateam practices and athletes must wear masks.
Inslee acknowledged the financial hardship this will bring to businesses already suffering from existing mandates. He said the state has issued $25 million in grants, and there is an additional $50 million coming to help mitigate business challenges.
“This is not enough,” Inslee said. “We need the federal government to step up to the plate. Congress needs to help. And, we are looking at alternatives.”
Lofy is fearful of getting to 4,000 cases per day, which she said would overwhelm hospitals.
Clint Wallace, an ICU nurse also spoke.
“We are exhausted, we are tired,” said Wallace. “It’s about adequate staffing, and COVID patients require more than normal patients. We are all close to burning out.”