Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state will extend COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and social gatherings an additional week through January 11th.
The announcement comes amid continued concerns about the high level of spread of the virus and as exhausted state and health care systems struggle to complete the first phases of vaccinations across the nation.
The piecemeal seven-day extension in Washington comes as officials continue to warn of the dangerous, ongoing aftermath of a surge of cases this fall that has filled the state’s hospitals. Even as daily new case totals have slowed, the pace has not been enough to ease the burden. Meanwhile, the relentless percentages continue to play out. In King County, 1.8% of people who are infected die of COVID-19 complications. With daily totals here now bouncing around 300 to 500 a day, there will continue to be days — every day — that bring five to ten new deaths.
So far, 1,082 “deaths due to COVID-19 illness” have been reported in King County. 16 deaths have now been recorded in the Capitol Hill area of the city — but across the three main ZIP codes covering Capitol Hill and the Central District, 11 have come in the lower income, more diverse 98122 ZIP Code.
“Our consistent mission has been keeping Washingtonians safe and ensuring health care system and hospital capacity,” Inslee said in announcing the extension. “We understand the profound impact COVID is having on our healthcare system, families and businesses, but I am heartened by the number of Washingtonians who continue to do the right thing.
The governor urged people to “continue distancing from others, wearing facial coverings and avoiding social gatherings. State officials say an updated reopening plan is “currently being developed to provide a pathway for businesses and workers impacted by this order to reopen safely.”
The updated plan will be released next week.
Washington implemented the new restrictions in the lead-up to the Thanksgiving holiday including prohibiting indoor service at restaurants and bars and closing gyms, indoor facilities like bowling alleys, and venues like museums. Stores must limit occupancy to 25% and offices must also require a 25% occupancy limit and be closed to the public if they are unable to mandate employees work from home.
If the restrictions are able to be lifted on January 11th, the state will have been locked down for about two months in this latest round of shutdowns.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to take its toll. In November, the statewide unemployment rate hovered at 5.9% with around 4.3% unemployed in King County. And more small businesses will undoubtedly be announcing “permanent closures” over the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, there is growing criticism and concern about the federal government’s vaccination efforts. With plans that are nearly fully dependent on depleted state and local health systems and the workers and volunteers exhausted after spending 2020 fighting the pandemic, there are growing worries that the United States is not getting its people vaccinated quickly enough to outpace the virus.
This week, more than 12 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been distributed in the country. As of Wednesday, according to the CDC, only 2.8 million people have “initiated” the vaccination with their first shot.
In Washington with a population of more than 7 million and some 280,000 doses distributed here, 54,000 people have started the vaccination process.
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