Coronavirus: Gov. Inslee announces new restrictions; indoor dining and social gatherings prohibited

Coronavirus: Gov. Inslee announces new restrictions; indoor dining and social gatherings prohibited
Gov. Jay Inslee during a Sept. 15, 2020 press conference in Olympia.

SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced new sweeping restrictions for the state to control the spread of COVID-19.

Just 11 days before the Thanksgiving holiday, indoor social gatherings outside of someone’s household are prohibited.

Starting Tuesday, bowling alleys, movie theaters, gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums will all be forced to stop any indoor services or activities. Indoor dining at bars and restaurants will stop Wednesday, Nov. 18. Outdoor dining will be allowed, but there can be no more than five people at one table.

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Schools, higher education and child care are all exempted in this order and will follow the current guidelines in place. The restrictions also don’t apply to courts or court-related proceedings.

The new restrictions come just after Inslee issued travel advisories along with the governors of California and Oregon, urging people entering their states or returning from travel outside those states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

It also comes days after Inslee and his wife, Trudi Inslee, urged people to forego gatherings and holiday travel plans as COVID-19 cases spike across the state.

Two days ago, state and county health officials warned of an acceleration of cases and pleaded with people to take the pandemic more seriously as they head into the winter holidays.

On Tuesday, state health officer, Kathy Lofy, said cases have been steadily increasing since September but that the most dramatic increases have occurred over the past two weeks. She said cases are rising among all age groups, indicating that transmission is widespread.

As for the new sweeping restrictions, they will stay in place until at least Dec. 14.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the counties with the highest totals: King County has 905 deaths among 46,070 cases; Snohomish County has 303 deaths among 15,281 cases; and Pierce County has 289 deaths among 17,912 cases.

Click here to see where other counties in the state stand.

Key coronavirus updates:

Information from local officials

On Nov. 10, Washington state health officials issued a strong warning in a briefing Tuesday afternoon, urging people to stop social gatherings and increase mask wearing as cases spike across the state.

State health officer Kathy Lofy said there has been an accelerated growth of cases in the past two weeks leading to the highest number of COVID-19 cases Washington has seen since the pandemic started.

The growth is widespread across both western and eastern Washington, and the high case number is not due to an increase in testing - it is an increase in disease, Lofy said.

She warned hospitalizations are increasing across the state and they will soon overwhelm the healthcare system.

The state said of the 2.6 million tests conducted in Washington, 4.7% have come back positive. That’s more than twice the target the state is aiming for and suggests increased spread.

Lofy emphasized that everyone needs to be wearing masks and strictly limit contact with people outside the household.

Click here to read more.

County-by-county phased reopening approach

Inslee expired the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order on May 31 and announced that the state would move to a “Safe Start” county-by-county phased reopening approach.

Under the “Safe Start” plan, individual counties are able to apply to the secretary of health to move between the phases or add new business activities. There is now an indefinite pause on counties moving forward to new phases.

When applications are allowed, they must be submitted by a county executive. If a county does not have a county executive, it must be submitted with the approval of the County Council/Commission.

The Secretary of Health evaluates each application based on how their data compares to certain targets. Click here for a complete breakdown.

An individual county’s ability to respond to outbreaks, increased deaths, health system capacity and other factors are also considered.

The Secretary of Health can approve the plans as submitted, approve with modifications or can deny the application.

The state is using certain metrics to evaluate when and how to lift various restrictions. The five metrics being used are: COVID 19 disease activity; testing capacity and availability; case and contact investigations; risk to vulnerable populations, and health care system readiness.

How you can protect yourself and what to do if you think you were exposed

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Patients reportedly have mild to severe respiratory illness. These are steps health officials recommend to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact:
  • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127 and press #.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.