SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday he is tightening restrictions throughout the state in restaurants and bars, for weddings and funerals, and at gyms in a further effort to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“I care about businesses opening and people getting back to work, but public health and economic activity go hand in hand,” Inslee said. “Our suppression of this virus is not at the level it needs to be to continue allowing for more activity. If we let this virus get even more out of control, it will have devastating effects on our health and on our economy.”
The rate of disease transmission has been increasing around the state with a spike in transmission among people in their 20s spreading into all age groups in Washington, he said.
The changes mostly affect indoor activities where the risk of virus exposure could be highest, officials said. For restaurants, indoor dining will be limited to members of the same household and alcohol service must end at 10 p.m. Bars, taverns, breweries, wineries and distilleries must close all indoor service, regardless of whether food is served, Inslee said. Those rules go into effect July 30.
Wedding ceremonies, both religious and secular, still will be allowed, while receptions will be prohibited. For all phases, the maximum indoor occupancy for weddings and funerals will be 20%, or up to 30 people, whichever is less, as long as 6 feet of distance can be maintained between households. Those changes also take effect July 30, but weddings and funerals within the next two weeks can take place under previous guidelines, Inslee said.
When it comes to fitness, Inslee said for counties in Phase 2, such as King County, only 5 people, not including staff, are allowed for indoor fitness services at a time. The restrictions include gyms, fitness studios, indoor pools, ice rinks, volleyball and tennis courts. Gyms in phase three counties must reduce occupancy to 25% and limit group fitness classes to 10 participants.
Businesses such as card rooms, bowling alleys and arcades now cannot open until Phase 4 and indoor movie theater occupancy will be limited to 25% in Phase 3.
Don Blakeney, Downtown Seattle Association vice president of Advocacy & Economic Development, said in an email Thursday that public health must come first, but people also need to support small businesses as they continue to adapt to the changing landscape.
“Hopefully cities and local governments will continue to adjust regulations to allow restaurants and retail to utilize exterior space, or deliver a wider variety of goods,” he said. “Also continued federal support will be needed. We can’t afford to go backward.”
Also on Thursday, State Health Department Secretary John Wiesman expanded the face covering mandate to include common spaces such as elevators and hallways in places such as apartment buildings, university housing, hotels and nursing homes. The new order takes effect on Saturday. A mandate is already in place requiring face coverings in public buildings and outdoors when 6 feet of space cannot be maintained.
“I know that many of us are tired and wish we could go back to the way we lived before the pandemic, but that is simply not the situation we are in right now,” Wiesman said. “We must dig back in to regain control.”
The statewide eviction moratorium also will be extended again but details will come later, Inslee said.
“We do not take these steps lightly,” Inslee said. “We know every prohibition is a challenge for individuals and business owners. But we know that if we fail to act, we expose people and businesses to even greater risk down the line.”
Nearly 50,000 people in the state have tested positive for the disease and nearly 1,500 people in Washington have died of complications from COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.