With the virus spreading faster than ever in Seattle, King County, the state, and the nation, Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a new round of severe restrictions on businesses and social gathering in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 before the state’s hospital and health system is overwhelmed.
State and local officials have said the fall surge here is being fueled by small gatherings with friends and family when masks come off and the virus is given more time and opportunity to spread. Experts warn that any prolonged exposure — especially indoors and even when masked — can be dangerous.
Sunday, Inslee said he wanted it to be clear that the new restrictions were not a matter of punishing restaurants and other businesses for the outbreak. “This is not a matter of trying to assign blame,” Inslee said. But health officials added that restaurants have been identified as the most common cause of outbreaks, typically involving staff becoming ill on the job.
Calling the day the state’s “most dangerous” in 100 years, Inslee said his goal is to keep the most people alive as possible before a vaccine arrives.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan spoke during the morning’s session but did not announce any additional restrictions in her city beyond those being rolled out across the state. While facilities like pools will close, Seattle parks and playgrounds should remain open.
UPDATE: In a live interview with Converge Media and CHS on Monday, the mayor said the information the city has from health officials shows what has been “a handful of employer outbreaks” but that bars and restaurants have been the most common source in those business-related situations. The mayor encouraged people to visit seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19 for a list of resources and local programs they can apply to immediately for assistance during the lockdown and crisis.
UPDATE 11/18/2020: Industry advocates are pointing out that restaurants and bars are being unfairly singled out. According to the state’s latest sector report (PDF), Washington’s leading employment categories by total case count are Health Care and Social Assistance, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, Retail Trade, Manufacturing, and then Accommodation and Food Services.
The new limitations included a ban on indoor dining and 25% capacity restrictions on the number of customers allowed inside grocery stores and other retail venues. The new lockdown will include closures of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities including gyms, movie theaters, museums, zoos, and aquariums. Real estate open houses are again prohibited. And religious services will again be limited with a 25% capacity or 200-person restriction — whichever is fewer.
Youth sports practices, meanwhile, will be allowed to continue and services including hair salons and barbershops can continue to operate. Childcare facilities and private schools providing in-person instruction to young children can also continue. Seattle Public Schools is yet to restore any wide scale in-person learning.
Indoor social gathering is prohibited while outdoor should be limited to no more than five people from outside the household.
The new restrictions will go into effect starting Tuesday morning with restaurants and bars getting an extra day to lock things down before a Wednesday morning start of the new limits.
They are planned to be in place for at least four weeks — and possibly longer — until cases subside. Continue reading