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‘Violations of the Governor’s Proclamation’ — Businesses must turn away customers without masks as state tries to quash reopening COVID-19 spike

(Image: Washington Department of Health)

With the spread of COVID-19 out of control across much of the nation and the rate of infection flat or on the rise in 48 states, Washington and King County are also starting July with an explosion in new cases.

Starting next week, Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered a statewide requirement for businesses to require all employees and customers to wear face coverings.

“Under this proclamation, businesses may not serve any customer, services or goods, if they do not comply with the state-wide face covering order,” a statement on the proclamation reads. The proclamation follows the implementation of statewide face covering requirements that went into effect June 26th. The state is also collecting citizen reports on business violations as part of the effort.

Inslee has also ordered a halt on advancing counties from their current phases. More restrictions and rollbacks could follow.

Despite the health risks, there is massive pressure to more fully restart the economy. The Seattle City Council next week will vote on a new tax on big businesses as it looks to patch the massive budget shortfall expected in the city in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The restrictions come as much of the state has seen loosening of social distancing and business restrictions coincide with an acceleration of the spread of the stubborn outbreak. In King County where restrictions were advanced to “Phase 2” to end June, the first case count of July brought a major spike with 251 new COVID-19 cases reported, the second highest day reported yet in the county. Seven of those cases were reported in the Capitol Hill and Central District area.

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So far, the surge starting in late June has not yet been accompanied by jumps in hospitalizations and deaths though that could be only a matter of time. You can review the latest King County reporting here.

The last similarly massive spike in King County cases came in early June when crew members from an American Seafoods’ fishing boat returned to port in Seattle “with a number of cases of COVID-19.” This time, there may not be a boat to blame.

An outbreak in the University of Washington’s fraternity and sorority housing could explain some of the spike as the UW Interfraternity Council reported this week that at least 105 residents have tested positive.

Loosened restrictions on businesses could also be a factor. Financial analysis from J.P. Morgan seems to indicate a link between “in-restaurant spending” and outbreaks as the loosened restrictions bring increased mobility and interactions.

Last week, officials said a major factor in King County’s recent increase is people becoming sick and not immediately isolating:

Health officials say the tracers are finding most people are waiting too long to go into isolation, saying only 21% of the people they contacted went into isolation on the day they first developed symptoms. More than half are waiting until they get tested. On average, there’s a 3-day gap between the time symptoms develop and when a person gets tested.

Officials here say the largest increases have also been seen in “young adults and Seattle residents.”

“At this point, no specific venue or risk factor has been identified as a cause of the increase,” the county update stated last week.

Here is the county’s overview of COVID-19 symptoms:

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. This list is not all possible symptoms. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Last month, officials said there appeared to be no spike in infections due to Seattle’s massive crowds and protest activities in June as King County shifted to a second phase of lifting social distancing and business restrictions.

Testing is increasingly available and takes as little as 20 to 30 minutes to complete and results are being turned around in about 48 hours. Seattle has launched a free testing initiative that has added two mobile clinics — one to the north off Aurora and one in SoDo — as well as expanded recommendations for who should seek a test that includes anyone feeling even mild symptoms or who has had even a brief exposure to someone who is sick or tested positive.

Face masks, meanwhile, continue to be an important factor in staying healthy. “The virus that causes COVID-19 is principally spread by droplets that you exhale when you are normally breathing, as well as when you talking, singing, coughing or sneezing,” the Washington State Department of Health writes in a “science of masks” update. “These droplets can float in the air and infect people who are near you.”

The coverings have been required when “in indoor public spaces or confined spaces where it could be difficult to maintain six feet of physical distancing” in King County and Seattle since mid-May. And, yes, you can take them off when eating or drinking. Meanwhile, other businesses and services including Capitol Hill hair salons old and new are reopening with COVID-19 safeguards in place.

Washington’s efforts to increase business pressures as a means toward enforcing its mask requirements will include the ability to report violations. The state is taking reports of violations on its COVID-19 site. You can fill out a violation report here.

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7 thoughts on “‘Violations of the Governor’s Proclamation’ — Businesses must turn away customers without masks as state tries to quash reopening COVID-19 spike

  1. Someone should tell the SPD cops that we are under a statewide order to wear masks in public because most of them are not wearing them. If they are here to protect us from the lawlessness of CHOP it would be nice if they would also respect the law? Also it does seem that grabbing random protesters they don’t like and forcing them to the ground for reasons nobody around can seem to discern does feel like a blatant disregard for social distancing.

  2. It seems hard to believe that large crowds of people are not creating an increase (something they were able to determine faster than the incubation period some how).

  3. Someone should tell the UW kids they are under a statewide order to wear masks. Just went into Safeway in u dist and plenty not wearing masks. Given number infected most likely asymptotic and happily spreading.

    • I was surprised to see Greek Row having several active summer houses seemingly as usual this summer.I walked through there a couple of weeks ago when I had to go up to the UW area and it was no different then any of the handful of times I had seen it in the past if I had to pass through there on foot in other years. No masks and all bunched together socializing. I think the latest number is 117 testing positive there.

  4. Not wearing a mask is like drunk driving. At this rate, even if we get a vaccine, all the non-mask wearers plus all the anti-vax people will mean the vaccine won’t be able to actually reduce the spread in a significant manner. And I haven’t signed up to be in a death cult like Trump supporters have.

    I want major public health awareness campaigns created in coordination with top ad agencies and behavioral scientists. The Federal government isn’t doing this because Trump is so anti-science and he wants the chaos of pandemic to try to have political gain from it somehow.

    But part of these campaigns would be not simply calling out non-mask wearers as idiots, but really understanding their behavior and countering it with the right messaging. Like quit smoking campaigns have to be about more than showing pictures of diseased lungs.

    But in the meantime, I want enforcement, and that includes actions against law enforcement who themselves won’t wear masks, whether that’s some police in Seattle, or sheriffs in Eastern Washington.

    The virus hasn’t studied political science, but does thrive in this environment.

    Meanwhile, Democrats are more likely to be mask wearers and see the pandemic as a real threat. In states that will require in-person voting, that could mean Republicans show up to the polls as they don’t feel the risk, while more Democrats stay home (or else see Trump as a health threat stronger than COVID-19, which he is). As he’s literally on a death tour right now.

    I just hope no workers get hurt when facing resistance from certain members of the public for enforcing wearing of masks.

  5. I’m curious whether this will apply in any way to Sound Transit.

    Currently, they have stated that they will not turn away any passengers without masks — despite having security guards and fare inspectors who are fully equipped to do so.

    The compliance rate I saw in Link last time I rode a few weeks ago was abysmal enough that I have no idea what it is now (since I won’t be riding it again!).

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