Washington state announces broad new restrictions to curb surging coronavirus

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a 2018 event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Washington is tightening restrictions on gatherings and businesses as coronavirus cases surge across the state.

“If we let the virus get even more control, it will have an even more devastating impact over the long-term in our economy and certainly in our health and the lives of our loved ones,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday during a press event.

Under Inslee’s latest order:

  • Wedding ceremonies are allowed but receptions are prohibited. Occupancy at weddings is limited to 20% or 30 people, whichever is less.
  • Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is limited to members of the same household at the same table, with table sizes capped at 5 people. All bars will be closed for indoor service.
  • Fitness services in Phase 2 counties will be limited to five people. In Phase 3 counties, fitness services are limited to 25% occupancy.
  • Indoor family recreation centers, like bowling alleys and arcades, will not be allowed to operate.
  • The state’s mask order will be extended to all common spaces, including elevators and hallways.

The masking order takes effect this Saturday. The new restrictions on restaurants and other businesses start on July 30 and the new wedding limits start August 6.

Inslee also announced Washington state’s moratorium on evictions will be extended through Oct. 15 as families deal with financial hardships as a result of the pandemic.

Across the state, more coronavirus cases are being reported than ever before, including the previous spring surge. More than 49,000 Washington residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,468 have died from complications associated with the virus, according to the state Department of Health.

The increase coincides with expanded COVID-19 testing in the state but scientists and Washington public health officials still called the growth in cases an “explosive situation” and “a matter of utmost urgency,” in a new situation report published this week.

“Transmission continues to increase or accelerate across most of Washington state and will continue to do so unless concrete steps are taken to stop the spread,” says the report from researchers and scientists from the Institute for Disease Modeling, University of Washington, Microsoft and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

On Wednesday, several large Washington school districts, including Seattle, announced they will not re-open schools this fall due to the virus outbreak. The districts plan to hold classes online instead.

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