OLYMPIA, Wash. (NewsNation Now) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday announced new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next four weeks as the state continues to combat a rising number of coronavirus cases.
Starting at 11:59 p.m. Monday, a host of businesses must close their indoor services, including fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums. Retail stores — including grocery stores — must limit their indoor capacity to 25%.
Also starting at that time, indoor social gatherings with people from more than one household are also prohibited unless attendees have either quarantined for 14 days before the gathering or tested negative for COVID-19 and have quarantined for seven days.
Beginning 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, restaurants and bars will be limited to to-go service and outdoor dining with tables seating no more than five people.
In prepared remarks for a Sunday morning news conference, Inslee said the state is facing a third wave of the virus and the state was in “as dangerous a position as we were in March, when we first stayed home to stay healthy.”
“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,” he said.
While weddings and funerals can still occur, starting Tuesday, ceremonies are limited to no more than 30 people and receptions are prohibited. Real estate open houses will be prohibited, personal services — like hair salons — will be limited to 25% of maximum occupancy and professional services are required to mandate remote work when possible, and when not, to be restricted to 25% occupancy. Under the new restrictions, only outdoor visits will be allowed at long-term care facilities and religious services will be capped at either 25% indoor occupancy or 200 people, whichever is fewer.
The state was under a stay-at-home order from March 23 until the end of May. All of Washington’s 39 counties have been paused in either the second or third phase of a four-stage reopening plan that began in early May to start lifting restrictions on businesses and other activities. The governor’s announcement Sunday temporarily rolls back all counties so that they are under the same guidelines.
In recent days, Inslee and health officials had warned that new restrictions were likely needed in order to slow the trajectory of new cases.
On Thursday night, Inslee and his wife, Trudi, made a statewide televised plea to the public to forego gatherings and holiday travel plans. And on Friday, Inslee joined the governors of California and Oregon in issuing travel advisories urging people entering or returning to their states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus as infections spike across the U.S.
The advisories stopped short of stricter rules imposed by other governors and instead said people should avoid non-essential out-of-state travel and quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country.
The U.S. has recorded more than 10.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 245,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.
For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
While the number of applications for unemployment insurance fell last week in 29 states, new numbers released Thursday show the figure jumped the highest in Washington, with 25,201 new claims representing a nearly 72% increase from the previous week. The latest unemployment figures, from September, show the rate at 7.8%. New numbers for October will be released next week.
Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, warned that the restrictions put at risk the jobs of more than 100,000 employees, right before the holidays.
“At every step, our industry has partnered with the governor’s office and public health agencies, and the data shows our efforts are working,” he said in a written statement Sunday, noting that less than 1% of coronavirus cases have been traced to restaurants. “We will work to ensure our employees and small business owners get the support they need in this time.”