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[Updated] Washington state announces new restrictions as COVID cases explode

Rapidly increasing COVID cases in Washington forces business restrictions and closures.

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Update: 12:05 PM – the announced restrictions will be in place for four weeks.

Governor Inslee of Washington state will be holding a press conference at 11 AM to announce new restrictions on activities and businesses due to a dramatic increase in COVID cases. The sweeping restrictions will prohibit indoor dining, reduce capacity at all retail locations including grocery stores to 25%, and requires entertainment venues such as movie theaters and zoos to close.

Washington state has seen a record number of new cases, exceeding 2,000 a day, while hospitalizations have started to increase. Late last week, UW Medicine announced it was implementing its surge plan which includes adding hospital beds and staff while dialing back on elective surgeries and in-office visits.

Government officials in Idaho have made things more complicated for Washington state. While Idaho does not havee a mask requirement, the hospitals in the panhandle region have become overwhelmed, and the state has started sending its COVID patients to Seattle and Portland, Oregon. In eastern Washington and Clark County in southwestern Washington, positive test rates range from 10.4% in Clark County to 37.7% in Whitman County. Less than 5% positive is ideal, and anything over 10% indicates under-testing and widespread transmission. Anything over 20% is considered a critical situation.

The state of Washington has released the following statement.

In order to slow the spread of rapidly increasing COVID cases in our state, and ensure that hospitals 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 are 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 are 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 AM 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 Funeral 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 are limited to outdoor-only for intrateam practices, masks required for athletes.

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

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