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250 days after first restrictions, Washington starts new COVID-19 lockdown — UPDATE

(Image: CHS)

Washington’s third phase (Source: coronavirus.wa.gov)

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.


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Some aspects of the lockdown are the severest yet for the state and comes with even slimmer support from the federal government as a new relief package remains in limbo in Washington D.C. Unemployment in Washington dropped to 7.8% in September after reaching the teens early in the pandemic. Still, between September 2019 and 2020, Washington lost more than 200,000 jobs. Inslee, Sunday, said state grant and relief programs including another $50 million for small businesses will be rolled out “as swiftly as we can.”

The state also continues to maintain a moratorium on evictions though pressure has grown to narrow the parameters of the restriction.

Sunday’s announcement comes 250 days after the first round of restrictions were put in place across the state in March as a third, larger wave of new cases continues to crest in Washington. In October, the state and county began moving beyond the early phase process of COVID-19 restrictions with a more surgical approach to important activities and categories based on key metrics. For a few weeks, those metrics showed a positive situation for areas like King County. Some even found ways to celebrate Halloween. Now those gains have been fully wiped away.

The city’s homelessness crisis, meanwhile, is colliding fully with its COVID-19 crisis. City parks and playfields including Cal Anderson and Miller Community Center are filled with tents under policies halting encampment removals ​except in instances of extreme public health and public safety concerns in response to CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. New funding has been put in place to increase efforts for outreach to help manage the camps and move more people into shelter. Congregate homeless shelters are not subject to the new lockdowns.

Word that the restrictions were coming grew following lockdowns in California and Oregon, and a Thursday night address from the governor warning of the surging “third phase” of the virus and pleading for people to avoid gathering during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Inslee’s office has said the governor focused the state’s recent response on reopening and individual responsibility. “It wouldn’t be necessary if people are able to do the other things they can do right now on their own,” a spokesperson said last week about rolling back the state’s reopening efforts.

But the case counts in the state have surged. In King County, the recent daily average is approaching 500 cases. With somewhere around 2% of all cases ending in death, county officials could very well be facing 10 or more COVID-19-related deaths a day in December. 828 people have already died here including a dozen reported across Capitol Hill and the Central District. The highest death rates in the county, meanwhile, are found to the north and the south of Seattle.

Officials are now adding new restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus before health systems are again overloaded and people who would not be at risk of hospitalization end up needing care because of a lack of assistance and resources. If nothing else, the restrictions should help remind people to take the situation more seriously.

Medical facilities have been preparing for the latest increases. UW Medicine last week announced it has implemented “surge plans so that we can care for more patients with COVID-19.” UW says more than twice as many people are currently hospitalized by the virus than a month ago.

Grocery stores around Capitol Hill and the Central District were busy but not overwhelmed Saturday as word of the coming restrictions spread. Restaurants and bars that have been open for sit down service encouraged patrons to come out for a last visit before the lockdowns take effect. The Washington Hospitality Association said it received information about the restrictions and notified members Saturday. Still, some venues like the Wildrose bar criticized the timing of the governor’s announcement.

Meanwhile, restaurants and bars able to invest in outside patio and street setups may be able to more easily survive the coming downturn in business.

(Image: CHS)

A preliminary announcement from the state is below.

In order to slow the spread of rapidly increasing COVID cases in our state, and ensure that hospital and medical systems are not overwhelmed, we are taking the very difficult but necessary steps to protect public health. 

We recognize this will cause financial hardship for many businesses and the governor and staff are exploring ways to mitigate the impacts. 

These rules are effective Monday, Nov. 16th at midnight (12:01 am Tuesday), except for where noted as in the case of restaurants (detailed below). 

If the activity is not listed, it should follow its current guidance. All K-12/higher education and childcare is exempt from the new restrictions and will follow current guidance. These restrictions do not apply to courts and court related proceedings. 

  • Indoor social gatherings with people from outside your household are prohibited. 
  • Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to 5 people from outside your household.
  • Restaurants and bars are closed for indoor service. Outdoor dining and to-go service is permitted. Outdoor dining must follow the outdoor dining restriction. Table size limited to 5 for outdoor dining.  These restaurant restrictions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, November 18. 
  • Fitness facilities and gyms are closed for indoor operations. Outdoor fitness classes may still occur but they are limited by the outdoor gathering restriction listed above. Drop off childcare closed. 
  • Bowling Centers are closed for indoor service.
  • Miscellaneous Venues: All retail activities and business meetings are prohibited. Only professional training and testing that cannot be performed remotely is allowed. Occupancy in each meeting room is limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Movie Theaters are closed for indoor service. Drive-in movie theaters are still permitted and must follow the current drive-in movie theater guidance. 
  • Museums/Zoos/Aquariums are closed for indoor service. 
  • Real Estate open houses are prohibited. 
  • Wedding and Funerals receptions are prohibited. Ceremonies are limited to no more than 30 people. 
  • In-store retail limited to 25% indoor occupancy and must close any common/congregate non-food related seating areas. Food court indoor seating is closed. 
  • Religious services limited to 25% indoor occupancy no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer. No choir, band, or ensemble shall perform during the service.  Soloists are permitted to perform.  Facial coverings must be worn at all times by congregation members and no congregational singing.
  • Professional Services are required to mandate that employees work from home when possible, and to close offices to the public. If they remain open, occupancy is restricted to 25%. 
  • Personal services are limited to 25% of maximum occupancy.
  • Long-term Care Facilities outdoor visits only. Exceptions can be made for essential support person and end-of-life care.   
  • Youth (school and non-school) and adult sporting activities limited to outdoor only for intrateam practices, masks required for athletes. 

A household is defined as the individuals residing in the same domicile.

The full announcement is here.


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ventingjunk
ventingjunk
8 days ago

while i can appreciate that there is a need for this lock down where is the help for those who can no longer work due to this mandated shutdown because it ain’t coming from the federal government, not with the gridlock between moscow mitch and pelosi……..thanks guys you sure do inspire confidence in our “elected leaders”

K_8910
K_8910
8 days ago

How can you prohibit what I do in my own home?

d4l3d
d4l3d
8 days ago
Reply to  K_8910

By relying on your common sense and compassion. Don’t make a medical crisis a rights issue. If someone cares to point out your shortsightedness then there you go. You’re IDed as a med risk and action can be taken to protect others.

Nukegrrrl
Nukegrrrl
7 days ago
Reply to  K_8910

Prohibit what I do in my own home by supporting Republicans that tell us what to do in bed and what birth control options we have.

NotAmused
NotAmused
7 days ago
Reply to  K_8910

I’m sorry, but everyone around you in your community have a right to not suffer from your poor understanding of cause and effect and the eventual spreader event you cause. Remember the wedding in Maine that was linked to hundreds of deaths some hundreds of miles away.

Do you say the same thing about a dealer selling meth out of his house? Do you say the same thing about someone raping a child in their own home?

The inside of your home is not a separate country where suddenly US laws do not apply. And yes, laws surrounding health and safety are absolutely constitutional. People have a right to not be deprived of life or liberty. Let’s see how free you are when you’re dead or imprisoned in the ICU with a ventilator breathing for you.

Dustin
Dustin
8 days ago

implementing another lockdown without serious economic stimulus measures already solidly in sight is not very well thought out and incredibly cruel. Washington voters getting what they wanted, I guess.

stan
stan
8 days ago
Reply to  Dustin

Yes, but let’s not forget that the House passed two federal stimulus bills earlier this year that the Republican led Senate refuses to act on. A winter surge was predicted by national healthcare leaders. The Senate, Donnie Small Hands – The Bunker Baby (our top elected official), knew this situation was likely to occur and that we needed to get ahead of it. Yet, they did nothing and continue to do nothing.

But, you know, the nation’s Republican voters getting what they wanted, I guess.

d4l3d
d4l3d
8 days ago
Reply to  Dustin

So, what do you deem an acceptable death rate while we wait? WA can’t provide much more relief than it already has. The current Fed admin and our regressive tax structure has seen to that.

rac
rac
8 days ago

it won’t be 4 weeks. we’ve seen Inslee’s playbook before. in early December it will get pushed past New Year’s. “we’re making progress.. can’t let holiday celebrations push us backwards…” And then probably pushed a couple more times.

stan
stan
8 days ago
Reply to  rac

Well, if the science dictates the need to go longer then it should. If we all took more personal responsibility in halting the spread (wear the damn mask, stay 6’ or more from other people in public, and stop throwing parties with people outside your household) we wouldn’t be in the spot we’re in now.

Bothell Anarchist
Bothell Anarchist
7 days ago
Reply to  stan

What about protests?

stan
stan
7 days ago

Well, you’re an anarchist so what do you care about any governmental regulations period?

But to answer the question, the main science backed recommendations are pretty clear: wear a mask, stay socially distant from others outside your immediate household (even when outdoors), and avoid large gatherings. I don’t understand how 8 months into the pandemic people are still unclear about how they can take personal responsibility for helping to keep infection rates down.

d4l3d
d4l3d
8 days ago
Reply to  rac

That coronavirus just does know enough to stay still, does it?

d4l3d
d4l3d
8 days ago
Reply to  rac

doesn’t (typo)

CapHillster
CapHillster
7 days ago
Reply to  rac

Of course, it’s all because Inslee personally hates freedom, and has nothing to do the intrinsic difficulty predicting the future in a viral pandemic.

RWK
RWK
7 days ago
Reply to  CapHillster

Nonsense. Governor Inslee is respecting the science, and so he knows that putting in additional restrictions as cases begin to rise is the right thing to do.

rac
rac
7 days ago
Reply to  CapHillster

The winter surge was predicted this past Spring. And yet, now, Inslee says they’ll have plans for relief for all those hurt as soon as they get it ready. He’s had 9 months to work on that. What – just didn’t get around to it? It is hard to focus during the PNW summers – it’s just so nice outside…

None of this is hard to predict. I predicted this shutdown 2 months ago and started to prepare my business.

The problem is Inslee does half measures and hems and haws, and then finally drops the hammer. But only for 4 weeks… But any business planning for that is going to waste money and be hurt even more because he’s not willing to be honest about his plans.

Inslee is a weak leader. I really hope Biden taps him to be anything but governor of our state.

stan
stan
6 days ago
Reply to  rac

The problem isn’t with Inslee as much as it is with the Republicans in the other Washington. The House passed not one but TWO stimulus bills that would be in effect right now. The Republicans in the Senate refused to even deliberate on it. All the while the President downplays the virus and says it’ll just disappear (of course, now that he lost re-election he can’t be bothered at all). But, sure, let’s put all the blame on Inslee.

CapHillster
CapHillster
7 days ago
Reply to  CapHillster

@RWK: So sorry, I typed that while dripping with sarcasm (or was it tomato sauce?).

I guess some people actually do believe that our Governor just hates the people who vote for him, and should have mystical powers to predict a non-deterministic future.

The truth is… More testing will find more cases. T
The truth is… More testing will find more cases. T
7 days ago

The death rate is still less than a normal flu season. And we all know many of these Covid deaths are not COVID at all. The truth is… More testing will find more cases. The underlying infection rate is the same, we are just finding more.

BCPHLS
BCPHLS
7 days ago

you wanna explain the extra quarter-million american corpses then? did they die of too little freedom? would magical red hats have saved them?

RWK
RWK
7 days ago

Your comment is not accurate. It has been well-established by public health epidemiologists that increased testing only contributes slightly to rising case numbers….most of the increase is REAL!

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
7 days ago

Everything you’ve claimed is false….

Flu mortality less than .1% Corona Virus mortality (in the US) 2.2%
Flu- (2018-2019) approx 35 million cases, 34,000 deaths
Corona virus (so far…) 11 million confirmed cases, 246,214 deaths

While more testing will find more cases, it’s been shown that there has been an increase in the rate of positive tests, confirming that the rate of infection is in fact rising….

No, reported COVID deaths are most certainly not ‘fake’…. just because you may not understand comorbidities and how deaths are reported, doesn’t mean that COVID wasn’t the cause of a death… it is, in fact, thought that COVID deaths, if anything, are being under reported. Studies of the overall rate of death in the US bear this out..

Nukegrrrl
Nukegrrrl
7 days ago

Is this the crabby old lady that was in line behind me last week at UW Med Radiology that “forgot(?)” their mask at home? Sounds like it.

Truth is murky
Truth is murky
7 days ago

The lockdowns in March were warranted based on the evidence at hand(which was few) and the idea of a 5% fatally rate across the board, that is not the case as we learned more.

The infections are far, far, far more widespread based on antibody studies done post wave in Chicago, Spain, Italy, many other places.

So whether a lockdown is effective is more a question for who? If you are under 50, the death rate is very low and under 40? No much different than regular flu. According to the State of Wa 20-39 years old were 40% of infections as of Sept, and under 1% of death, over 80 years old were 4% of infections and 51% of all deaths. 60-79 yo were 13% of infection and 39% of death. Source Seattle times, Sept 22, Dept of Health.

The truth is more like if you are under 40, you are more likely to be asymptomatic than older than 50 or just not realize you have it(slight feeling unwell, little cough) and so as long as you have a large number of cases out there, it will spread through the reservoir of youth. We are not randomly spot testing people so the spread just moves through the lower impacted population.

So lockdown 100% of the population or advise people with adverse health conditions, over 60 years old to lockdown until vaccination bearing in mind that we do not have federal funds to make up for lost wages, small business death, etc. The amount of money it would take to support older people/sev. immune compromised people 12-18 months is far less than shutting down huge swaths of the economy for all.

Take your vitamin D, get exercise, wear a multiple layer cotton or higher mask, don’t smoke and take reasonable measures(avoid all crowds). You have external protection(masks, washing hands, avoid crowds) and internal(not being obese, strong immune system, active body).

The more severe the lockdown, the more mental health issues will emerge, more depression, drug/booze issues. If you believe in science and data, it cuts both ways.

deadrose
deadrose
5 days ago
Reply to  Truth is murky

Yeah, go tell the people in North & South Dakota that. They’re currently dropping like flies, sometimes while still denying COVID exists.

CD Rez
CD Rez
5 days ago

The hardest of facepalms

MarciaX
MarciaX
7 days ago

About time. Inslee has been above-average among governors in his response to the pandemic (as is clearly evident from the state’s infection rate compared to the likes of Idaho), but allowing indoor dining and drinking to resume was his single biggest mistake. Now that the ban is back in place, it needs to remain until a vaccine is approved and widely distributed. Hopefully the Biden administration can do something about getting aid to the affected businesses, but the ban itself should be non-negotiable. In the meantime, support your favorite restaurants with takeout/delivery to the extent you can afford it.

Zoo fan on the Hill
Zoo fan on the Hill
6 days ago

“The new lockdown will include closures of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities including … zoos, and aquariums.” “Museums/Zoos/Aquariums are closed for indoor service.”

These two statements are a little unclear. To clarify, the Woodland Park Zoo is still open. Its indoor facilities, such as the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit, will continue to be closed, as they have been since the zoo’s re-opening under Covid guidelines. But the outdoor portions are still open to the public, with timed tickets at 25% capacity.

spock
spock
6 days ago

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Carey
Carey
5 days ago

Restaurants and bars are being unfairly singled out? They have been unfairly LEFT OPEN despite being proven vectors. We should have kept them completely closed so that we would have a chance of having SCHOOLS, which actually provide services of massive societal benefit, would have a chance of opening.