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A move to ‘flatten the curve,’ Washington COVID-19 order will prohibit major sporting events, large concerts, and gatherings ‘over 250’ — UPDATE: Seattle Schools to close for at least two weeks

Washington Governor Jay Inslee Wednesday announced restrictions on major sporting events, church services, concerts, and large cultural events across King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties as part of the region’s efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Saying the region is “experiencing significant community transmission” and requires a “more vigorous, more comprehensive, and more aggressive” response, Inslee said he was employing emergency powers to prohibit gatherings of 250 or more people. The order “could be expanded in the days to come,” Inslee said. Inslee said it is very likely the prohibition will be extended beyond March.

“There is no magic silver bullet at the moment medically. But there is a very successful effort that we can take to slow the spread of this disease,” Inslee said, “And that’s to reduce the social interactions that are not necessary in our lives. This is an effective tactic. It is at hand. All it requires is the will of active people to follow science, and confidence that we are all in this together.”

The goal, Inslee said, is to “flatten the curve” — a reference to the graph of “active infections” in the area and the timeline of growth of the outbreak.

The order is legally binding but Inslee did not offer specifics about how it would be enforced and what consequences could be employed for breaking the ban. The threshold for the ban was arrived at as en “enforceable” total but Inslee said he is encouraging a reduction in smaller scale gatherings, also.

Smaller gatherings and events where effective “social distancing” measures cannot be applied are also banned.

Inslee thanked citizens for helping stem the tide of the virus’s spread. “People are staying home from work as recommended. People are washing their hands. People are using their elbows rather than their hands,” Inslee said.

The restrictions on gatherings of 250 or more people won’t yet extend to schools, state officials said, but warned that additional guidelines will be coming if the virus continues its spread. It also does not apply to busy areas like Sea-Tac.

UPDATE: Seattle Public Schools has decided to close its campuses even without a state decision. The Seattle Times reports schools will close for a minimum of two weeks beginning Thursday.

Specific guidance will also soon be coming from the state for businesses including groceries and restaurants, officials said.

The order will prohibit attendance at major sports events with teams like the Mariners scrambling for plans to hold games outside the state, festivals, parades, large church services, concerts, and performances. The ban will also be felt with the cancellation or postponement of fundraisers and charity gatherings.

Inslee asked employers to enact “social distancing” measures and to think more about ways for workers to keep their distance and reduce the opportunities for transmission among each other and with customers.

Mayor Jenny Durkan called the crisis and the state’s response a potentially “transformative” event for the region.

Durkan is also slated to be part of a Wednesday afternoon event with Capitol Hill business representatives where restaurant, retail, and small business owners “will give overviews of the impact of the Coronavirus crisis to our neighborhood as well as talk about policy remedies that could provide some relief during this uncertain time.”

CHS reported here on the early Capitol Hill small business impact and issues including sick leave, insurance, and federal loans. The recently approved $8.3 billion federal emergency spending package includes $1 billion in subsidies to support a $7 billion loan program for small businesses hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

More help could come from a $2 million COVID-19 Response Fund backed by a coalition of Seattle “philanthropic groups and major corporations.

Daily life around Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Central Seattle includes a general quiet as many people are reducing their chance of exposure by staying home and limiting errands. Many of the region’s employers have asked employees not to come in and to “work from home.”

Reports of canceled reservations and half empty restaurants across the Hill continue, dotted by the occasional anecdote of a crowded karaoke night or performance. Shows at venues like Neumos and some performances at joints like R Place continue in front of reportedly lighter than normal crowds. Coffee shops, on the other hand, feel a little busier.

In what might become a familiar scene, CHS reported on an E Pine office building closed for “disinfecting service” this week after a person there was reported ill.

Earlier this week, Capitol Hill’s Seattle Central became the latest college and university campus to announce it is canceling classes and moving instruction online this month, joining the University of Washington, Seattle University, and many others. Seattle Public Schools and many of the city’s private elementary, middle, and high schools remain open as officials have so far opted not to recommend education officials close campuses. Seattle Public Schools has already canceled trips and large events.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday COVID-19 has reached levels making it an official pandemic.

The latest numbers from Public Health released Tuesday afternoon show what officials have been warning about: the first signs of a sharp increase in identified cases now that testing efforts have been stepped up around the region. The county reported 74 new cases Tuesday, bringing the total here to 190. With two new fatal cases, the death toll now stands at 22 for King County:

Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting the following confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 p.m. on 3/9/20

  • 190 confirmed cases (up 74 from yesterday)
  • 22 confirmed deaths (up 2 from yesterday)

The two deaths being reported today include:

  • A woman in her 80s, a resident of Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, was hospitalized at Swedish Issaquah, and died on 3/8/20. (This case was previously reported as a positive case on 3/7/20, in an earlier case count.)
  • A male in his 80s, a resident of Ida Culver House, was hospitalized at University of Washington Medical Center, and died on 3/9/20. (This case was previously reported as a positive case on 3/6/20, in an earlier case count.)

Of the 22 deaths reported, 19 are associated with Life Care Center.

Wednesday’s announcement also comes as the New York Times has revealed the Center for Disease Control’s poor initial response to testing in Washington, when, for weeks, the agency would not authorize the testing of thousands of flu samples even as Seattle researchers flagged the coming outbreak.

Inslee and officials said Wednesday that Washington’s outbreak puts the state out in front of what will likely come next for much of the rest of the nation.

CHS COVID-19 Coverage

  • 3/10/20: In what might become a familiar scene, Capitol Hill office building gets ‘disinfecting service’ as person becomes ill amid COVID-19 concerns
  • 3/9/20: COVID-19 updates: Seattle Central joins campus closure list, Amazon and Microsoft back $2M ‘COVID-19 Response Fund,’ home testing kits coming
  • 3/7/20: COVID-19 updates: New senior facility cases, cancellations grow, strange days in Seattle include new ‘6-foot’ options for delivery apps
  • 3/6/20Despite COVID-19 shadow, Capitol Hill Farmers Market going on as scheduled for shoppers — and vendors
  • 3/5/20: COVID-19 updates: King County Novel Coronavirus Call Center, increased testing, and why Seattle Schools isn’t canceling
  • 3/5/20: ‘EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS’ — Capitol Hill’s restaurant and nightlife economy grapples with COVID-19 worries
  • 3/3/20: COVID-19 updates: Seattle ‘Civil Emergency,’ city council briefing, ‘real-time outbreak response for the Seattle epidemic’ job listings
  • 3/2/20: COVID-19 updates: Weekend grocery run, county’s emergency response, patient isolation motel
  • 2/29/20With first ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 case in King County, here’s what officials are saying about spread and preparation — UPDATE: First U.S. death here
  • More…

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2 years ago

I’m very interested to see more specific details of the King County restrictions on events of less than 250 people.

“Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said those requirements will include that people at particular risk — people 60 or older and people with underlying health conditions — don’t attend, that people don’t get within six feet of each other if at all possible, that proper hand hygiene and sanitation are available to all attendees, and that CDC cleaning guidelines are followed in the event space.” -Seattle Times