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'People are hurting': Spokane leaders react to new COVID-19 restrictions in Washington

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said she plans to approach Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers about help getting federal funding for businesses.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane leaders are reacting to new COVID-19 restrictions that went into effect in Washington on Monday. 

Some say it's the right move to curb the spread of the virus, while others worry another shutdown could hurt local businesses.  

Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is closed, and in-store retail is limited to 25% capacity, including grocery stores. Indoor gatherings with those outside your household are also prohibited and outdoor gatherings are limited to five people, according to the new guidelines.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said her main concern is getting case numbers down, and helping local businesses survive the shutdown, in a press conference on Monday. 

Woodward said she didn't believe the $50 million Washington state has set aside will be enough to help businesses through the month-long restrictions. 

Woodward said she plans to petition congress woman Cathy McMorris Rodgers for help in securing federal funding to help businesses stay afloat. 

In a statement released Sunday, Woodward also asked the community to help support those who need it amid the new restrictions.

"As difficult as this news is for everyone, today is about renewed resilience," Woodward said. "People are hurting and need to be lifted up and supported to the best of our individual and collective abilities." 

The rest of her statement reads: 

"The virus has put many at extreme risk of severe health impacts, significant financial hardship, or both. Stepping back is not something anyone wants. Please keep your loved ones, friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances, and those you have not yet met as your top priorities. That means wearing a mask, limiting your trips to only necessary outings, and supporting your local businesses through their struggles by using online and takeout options. The timing, right before the holidays, is particularly devastating. Referenced state financial support for local communities needs to come as quickly and decisively as the state interventions enacted today.

We will continue working together to find safe ways to move all areas of our lives safely and responsibly past this virus. We are all in this together and it will take our collective efforts. The holidays are a time for giving and putting others first. The Spokane community has been doing that for months and will rally again in a time of even greater need.”

Woodward also expressed her frustrations on Twitter Saturday night after Governor Inslee announced there would be a press conference talking about actions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"Biggest concern: Will closure of restaurants/bars direct more people to risky behavior that's causing spikes in cases- private gathering?" Woodward wrote on Twitter. 

Woodward expressed concern over how restaurant employees will fare during the closures. 

"Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck," Woodward wrote. "If they're out of work for 4+ weeks will they get unemployment? Remember the debacle earlier this year?"

"Spokane County has funneled $100+ million in CARES Act funding to small businesses, nonprofits, rent relief, childcare, educational support, etc. How do we survive this next shutdown?" Woodward wrote.

Woodward wrote she would continue "fighting" for Spokane businesses. 

"Just know, we'll continue to protect the physical health of our community and fight for our businesses, the bloodline of our economy. Stay strong #Spokane, we'll get through this together," she wrote.

Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers released a statement saying she's disappointed in the "one-size-fits-all shutdown" and is concerned it will impact small businesses. "So many people are barely hanging on and need hope," she said. 

The rest of her statement reads: 

“Let’s continue to support our health care workers, those researching therapeutics, and the many friends and family working on the front lines. Thank you for your steadfastness throughout this difficult year. I believe we are close to a vaccine and providing widespread antigen testing that will bring confidence for us to continue to open up our economy. Let’s preserve the gains we have made in education and provide an option for more of our kids to return to in-person classes in a safe and responsible way. 

We need leadership that encourages the hard-working men and women who keep our state and region moving. Like I have said from the beginning of this pandemic, we need more localized solutions that recognize the regional differences that exist in our vast state and country. I will continue to advocate for locally driven strategies that keep Main Street open, encourage employment growth, and give families in Eastern Washington hope and opportunity.” 

Providence Healthcare released a statement saying the organization supports the new guidelines: 

"We are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in our hospitals and in our communities. Our state - and our health care workers - need everyone to follow the public health guidance that we know works: Wear a mask, stay physically distanced, wash hands regularly and stay home when sick. We support measures that limit social interaction with people outside individuals’ households so we can reduce the spread of the virus. We also encourage people to find alternate ways to celebrate the holidays to limit gatherings. Diligently following public health guidance is the fastest way to lower case counts in our communities."

Spokane City Council President Breann Beggs said he thinks the new restrictions are the right move in a conversation with KREM. 

"Unfortunately the only way we're going to heal our economy is to get a handle on the virus," Beggs said. "So we could just be slowly suffocating our businesses, or we could make a clean break, offer money to our businesses and employees, and come out the other side stronger than ever."

The restrictions come after a rise of COVID-19 cases in the state of Washington. 

The Washington State Department of Health announced Washington had reported a record number of new coronavirus cases Friday, with 2,147. The department reported over a thousand new cases a day every day last week, according to a release. 

A dozen counties in Washington, including Spokane, are seeing "steep increases" in cases, according to the DOH. 

The Spokane Regional Health District has reported over one hundred new cases a day from Nov. 5 through Nov. 13, when SRHD reported 191 cases. During that time period, SRHD also reported Spokane County's biggest spike in new cases, with 347 reported on Nov. 7.

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