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New COVID-19 restrictions in effect for Washington stores, restaurants and social gatherings

Gov. Inslee announced several statewide restrictions to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Most restrictions are in effect until Dec. 14.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee announced new statewide restrictions to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which includes closing indoor service for restaurants and bars and prohibiting indoor social gatherings.

Most of the rules are in effect as of Monday at 11:59 p.m. and will remain in effect until Dec. 14. Modified restrictions for restaurants took effect Wednesday, November 18 at 12:01 a.m.

The announcement comes following days of increasing COVID-19 cases.

The impacted industries/areas are: 

  • The biggest impact will be the closure of indoor dining at restaurants and bars. Outdoor dining and to-go service is permitted. Outdoor dining must follow the outdoor dining restriction. Table size is limited to five for outdoor dining. These restaurant restrictions went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18.
  • In-store retail is limited to 25% indoor occupancy and must close any common/congregate non-food-related seating areas. Food court indoor seating is closed.
  • Indoor social gatherings from people outside your household are prohibited and outdoor social gatherings should be limited to five people outside your household.  
  • 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.
  • Wedding and funeral receptions are prohibited. Ceremonies are limited to no more than 30 people.
  • 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.
  • Religious services are limited to 25% indoor occupancy or no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer. No choir, band or ensemble shall perform during the service.
  • Museums/zoos/aquariums are closed for indoor service.

During an 11 a.m. press conference Sunday, Inslee announced $50 million for aid to businesses who have been impacted.

For the second day in a row Saturday, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reported a record number of daily cases, with 2,233 new cases in a trend officials describe as alarming.

"This puts us in as dangerous a position as we were in March, when we first stayed home to stay healthy. And it means, unfortunately, the time has come to reinstate restrictions on activities statewide to preserve the public’s well-being, and to save lives," said Inslee.

The latest update brings the state’s totals to 127,731 cases and 2,519 deaths, according to the DOH. Officials also reported that 9,281 people have been hospitalized in the state because of the virus.

"A pandemic is raging in our state," said Inslee. "Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions. Left unchecked, our economic devastation will be prolonged, and, most importantly, we will see untold deaths. We will not allow this to happen." 

Businesses, however, are voicing concerns over the new restrictions.

“It’s not a matter of turning a profit, it’s getting to the other side making sure our team is safe our customers are safe and being in business when this is all over,” said John Genna, the co-owner of Johnny Mo's Pizzeria in Eastlake.

The Washington State Hospitality Association warns of damage to an industry that’s already struggled so much. 

“This is devastating news, this leads to 100,000 workers out of work right before the holidays. This will lead to more permanent closures and end more dreams. What makes it frustrating is we believe we could have worked together to make good decisions,” said Anthony Anton, WSHA's President. 

“Without attention paid to how small business truly impacts the larger picture in our economy, it’s a ham-fisted solution that is going to do as much harm as it’s going to do good. And I say that as someone that is 100 percent in support and even well-organized well targeted shutdowns,” said Alyssa Royse, founder of Rocket Community Fitness. “The good news is that because we’ve been shut down before we know what we’re doing this time, we’re ready."

Inslee also issued a travel advisory on Friday, urging anyone entering the state to self-quarantine for 14 days to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued similar advisories Friday.

The advisories urge the public to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel and encourage residents to stay close to home. 

The governor and his wife Trudi also made a televised address on Thursday pleading with people to reconsider holiday gatherings because of the jump in cases. 

"We have to rethink these holidays so that we may be thankful when we don't lose more lives to COVID," Inslee said during the address.

"We are optimistic that Thanksgiving 2021 will be the best ever, but this year, it's just too dangerous to gather together indoors where the virus can spread so easily," he said.

Washington businesses have warned they may not survive another shutdown. 

During a briefing on Friday, the Washington Hospitality Association released their latest estimates that show hospitality sales are down 45%.

“When you talk about 35% of restaurants going out of business, each one of those is a story,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association.

A statewide stay-at-home order was issued in March because of coronavirus. When businesses shut their doors, the hospitality industry lost 191,000 jobs, according to the association. Anton said as Washington has slowly reopened, 100,000 of those jobs came back.

"If we have to shut down again, that means we're going to lose those 100,000 jobs,” Anton said.

The industry is urging the public to take coronavirus seriously and follow health protocols so businesses don't have to move backwards.