OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee announced a four-week statewide set of restrictions in response to a recent rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus in Washington and across the country.
The new restrictions come as the state sees consistent increasing daily case counts, with more than 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 than we were in March,” Inslee said during a press conference Sunday. “And it means, unfortunately, the time has come to reinstate re-strictions 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,” Inslee said. “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 took effect Monday and remain in effect until Dec.14. The modified restrictions of restaurants, however, will take effect today, Nov. 18.
To help mitigate financial impacts on businesses and their employees, Inslee said 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, according to Inslee.
“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 health care 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, childcare 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 across the state and nation, according to Inslee. Because of this, indoor gatherings with people outside the household are prohibited unless they quarantine for the 14 days prior to the social gathering or quarantine for the seven 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 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 percent of occupancy and must close any congregate areas.
Religious services are limited to 25 percent 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.
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.”
Inslee’s latest restrictions came a few days after the governor and his wife urged residents to avoid holiday gatherings.
“Please do not have Thanksgiving gathering unless you’re positive that everyone there has quarantined successfully for 14 days,” Inslee said during a public address Thursday night.
The Inslees said they plan to celebrate the holidays virtually with their family.
“It’s not just Thanksgiving, but it’s also your birthday parties, your Seahawks celebrations, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing,” Trudi Inslee said. “These gathering in your homes are dangerous right now.”
Late last week Gov. Inslee sent a letter to the Trump administration requesting an extension of federal authority and funding for Washington National Guard deployment in support of COVID-19 pandemic emergency response operations.
The current federal funding authorization runs through Dec. 31.
“As anticipated, Washington state is experiencing a winter surge in positive COVID-19 cases. At the same time, our state is making preparations to efficiently distribute the highly anticipated vaccines” Inslee’s letter said. “We continue to rely on essential help from the Washington National Guard to ensure an effective response across our state, especially during this critical time.”
Currently, more than 800 members of the Washington National Guard are continuing to support the state’s pandemic response, including more than 500 members who are supporting nearly 50 food banks across the state. To date, they have assembled and have helped deliver more than 3 million meals, or 62.3 million pounds of food, to struggling families.
Additional Guard personnel continue to help operate community-based test sites and build test kits. Together they have helped test nearly 61,000 individuals and assemble more than 300,000 test kits since the beginning of the pandemic.
Inslee also joined governors from California and Oregon in issuing a travel advisory, recommending a 14-day quarantine for inter-state and international travel.
The advisory also recommends residents stay close to home during the holiday season.
“COVID-19 cases have doubled in Washington over the past two weeks. This puts our state in as dangerous a position today as we were in March,” Inslee said. “Limiting and reducing travel is one way to reduce further spread of the disease. I am happy to partner with California and Oregon in this effort to help protect lives up and down the West Coast.”
“California just surpassed a sobering threshold — one million COVID-19 cases — with no signs of the virus slowing down,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians. Travel increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 and we must all collectively increase our efforts at this time to keep the virus at bay and save lives.”