Social, economic and cultural life in Washington will grind to a halt at 11:59 p.m. Monday night, as Gov. Jay Inslee orders broad restrictions and shutdowns for restaurants, theaters, gyms and all indoor gatherings in an effort to slow the state’s burgeoning coronavirus epidemic.
Inslee, Sunday morning, ordered restaurants and bars to shutdown indoor service and to limit outdoor service to parties of five or less. Indoor gyms and fitness centers must also shutdown. Same with movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums. Indoor gatherings with people outside your household will be prohibited unless participants have quarantined and tested negative.
“Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said in prepared remarks. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”
The constraints on everyday life will be as extreme as anything the state has seen since Inslee issued an emergency stay-home order in March.
The new orders do not apply to schools or the court system, which are mostly operating remotely already.
“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,” Inslee’s office said. “We recognize this will cause financial hardship for many businesses and the governor and staff are exploring ways to mitigate the impacts.”
Despite a statewide mask mandate and current restrictions on businesses, the pandemic has been rapidly spreading in Washington. The state, for the last two weeks, has been breaking previous infection records almost daily.
On Nov. 3, the state recorded a then-record 1,469 coronavirus infections. By Nov. 14, daily infections had increased more than 50% and stood at 2,233 infections.
The day Inslee issued his stay-home order in March, there were just 225 confirmed infections, although there was far less testing then.
The full list of restrictions going into effect is daunting. All orders go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, except for the restrictions on bars and restaurants, which go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
Indoor gatherings, outside one’s household, are prohibited unless participants quarantine for 14 days prior to the gathering or quarantine for seven days prior and receive a negative COVID-19 test within two days of the planned gathering.
Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to no more than five people from outside your household, Inslee said.
Religious services can continue, but must limit indoor attendance to 25% of capacity, or 200 people, whatever is less, Inslee said. Masks must be worn at all times and choirs, bands and congregational singing will be prohibited.
Wedding and funeral ceremonies will be limited to 30 people. Receptions will be prohibited.
Retail stores and malls must limit occupancy to 25% and must close food court seating.
Offices are required to mandate employees work from home, if possible, and must limit occupancy to 25% if they remain open. They must be closed to the public.
Long-term care facilities can accept visitors only in outdoor settings, with limited exceptions for end-of-life care and essential support personnel.
Personal services, such as barber shops and salons, are limited to 25% capacity.
Real estate open houses are prohibited. Youth and adult sports are limited to outdoor only intrateam practices and athletes must wear masks.
The new restrictions are likely to bring a wave of economic devastation to businesses and employees already crippled by the pandemic. Congress has failed to pass a second round of economic relief measures, and expanded unemployment benefits and payments to businesses, passed in last spring’s relief package, expired months ago.