Washington state will temporarily close restaurants, bars, and entertainment/recreational facilities

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The Brave Horse Tavern was quiet during lunch hour last week in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Washington state will temporarily close restaurants, bars, and entertainment/recreational facilities statewide starting Monday, March 16 in the latest move to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus Live Updates: The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of tech

Gov. Jay Inslee made the announcement late Sunday and will hold a press conference Monday to provide more details.

In the Seattle area, the order will remain in place until March 31, according to an announcement from King County.

“To protect our people, we must continue to escalate our response,”  Inslee said.

Grocery stores and pharmacies will stay open. Restaurants can continue take-out and delivery service. Other retail locations can remain open if they meet public health requirements established by state and local governments.

The new rules follow similar restaurant/bar bans in other states and cities around the globe, including in New York City and Los Angeles.

The state is also prohibiting gatherings over 50 people, following guidance from the CDC earlier Sunday. Gatherings under 50 participants are also prohibited unless they meet criteria for public health and social distancing.

“I know there will be significant economic impacts to all our communities,” Inslee said in a tweet.  “But every hour counts as we bend the curve of infection.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a grave statement Sunday evening, urging anyone who can to self-isolate:

“We are at a critical moment in this crisis. We are leaving the phase of COVID-19 outbreaks in concentrated areas of the county, and entering the phase of potentially rapid and widespread infection.

It is time, right now, for people to assume that they and everyone they meet is infected, to avoid any unnecessary interactions that might lead to further infection, and to wait and monitor to see if they have in fact been infected so that they can isolate and recover without presenting a risk to others.

Go to work if you must. But hunker down if you are able. Postpone anything you can. Treat the next two weeks as a period of self-quarantine, to protect yourself and the lives and health of your loved ones and the entire community.”

The announcement follows California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said Sunday that bars, clubs, wineries, and breweries in the state will be closed. Newsom said people over 65 “must practice home isolation.”

The latest figures from the Washington Department of Health show at least 769 cases of COVID-19 and 42 deaths associated with the virus.

This past Friday Gov. Inslee announced statewide school closures for six weeks, starting March 17.

Workers from Microsoft, Amazon, and other Seattle-area tech companies have been instructed to work from home if they are able to do so.

Here’s a statement issued by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Sunday:

“We have been working together to take steps throughout our region. We have very limited time to slow the trajectory of the virus, and hundreds of lives depend on our actions now. We must protect our most vulnerable and ensure our health care system can continue serving children, families and individuals not just for COVID, but for any emergency. I know these restrictions are hard and impact the livelihoods and ways of life of our families. But it’s the right thing to do for the long-term health, safety, and vitality of our communities. These actions reflect the growing scientific consensus that if we don’t significantly increase mitigation efforts and prioritize true social distancing, the consequences for our region could be devastating.

“We know Seattle’s small businesses, workers, and community organizations are already hurting. Here in Seattle, we’re working tirelessly to support them. I have talked with Vice President Pence, our federal delegation and Governor Inslee to speed up meaningful relief for those already impacted. We also continue to partner with business and philanthropy to build more programs for impacted workers and families. As a City, we are supporting our small businesses who are impacted by this crisis by deferring payment on business taxes and utilities, setting up a Small Business Stabilization Fund, and ensuring our small businesses can access federal assistance through the Small Business Administration as soon as it becomes available. We will continue to build on these measures by using every possible local, state, federal and private resource to support small businesses, workers, and families.

“Ultimately, we know we will need an unprecedented small business and worker relief package from Congress. Congress must think bigger and bolder for a long-term economic relief package to help the people and businesses who already feel the real consequences of this global pandemic.”

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