Faced with a steadily rising number of new COVID-19 cases, Gov. Jay Inslee has opted for a limited roll-back of the state’s reopening, announcing Thursday he will place restrictions on restaurants and bars in an effort to slow the outbreak.
The new restrictions set to be in effect starting in two weeks will close any indoor service at bars and limit indoor dining to groups including only members of the same household as well as require alcohol sales to end by 10 PM.
For areas beyond King County under Phase 3 restrictions, table size will also be reduced to a five-person maximum and overall capacity will be capped at 50%. Any game areas like pool tables or arcade games must also be closed down.
In addition to adding further challenges to Capitol Hill restaurants, the changes could be a blow to the few bars that have braved attempts at reopening with Phase 2 limitations. In early May, Washington’s liquor and cannabis board temporarily legalized takeout cocktails when purchased with food providing one potential revenue stream. Others like Canon have also begun experimenting with retail.
Meanwhile, Inslee also announced Thursday that the state’s moratorium on commercial and residential evictions will be extended into October. CHS reported last week on record unemployment including one in five people on Capitol Hill and one in four in the Central District filing for benefits so far during the pandemic.
King County restrictions were advanced to “Phase 2” to end June.
Thursday, Inslee also announced bids to reduce spread at family gatherings including weddings and funerals by prohibiting receptions and keeping occupancy below 20% or 30 people — whichever is less. The state will allow a two-week grace period for upcoming events.
Gyms in areas like Seattle will also see new limits with indoor fitness service limited to no more than five people.
Meanwhile, loosening of restrictions on things like retail and outdoor activities like hiking and camping won’t yet be subject to any roll-back. Other services like health, beauty and hair, and home services are also not subject to new restrictions.
The changes come as Washington is following much of the nation in seeing its highest daily totals of new infections yet this summer in a spread that officials say continues to be driven in large part by people in their 20s and 30s gathering in large groups.
The coming restrictions follow weeks of tightening rules as reopening of the state’s economy has been accompanied by a re-acceleration in spread of the disease. Last week, Inslee announced new limits on social gatherings in areas of the state furthest along in reopening amid hope that efforts like mask requirements will help keep the state’s infection rate manageable.
Those requirements will be furthered as Secretary of Health John Wiesman said the state is expanding its face covering order to include common areas both outdoors and indoors where you will be within six feet of other people including elevators.
At the state level, COVID-19 cases spiked to more than 800 a day in late July — the highest points yet in the outbreak as testing has also hugely increased. So far, officials say, hospitalization and death rates have remained lower than the March and April surges. In Washington, the state has now climbed above 50,000 cases total since March with some 1,482 deaths reported. In King County, 635 have died.
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