Gov. Jay Inslee extended the statewide ban on indoor dining and the closure of gyms and fitness centers for one week on Wednesday, pushing the restrictions back to at least Jan. 11.
Gyms, theaters and indoor dining at restaurants and bars have been closed throughout Washington state for the last six weeks, since Inslee tightened statewide coronavirus restrictions in the wake of rising case numbers.
Originally scheduled to expire in mid-December, the regulations have been repeatedly extended.
Washington’s case and hospitalization numbers have leveled off since Inslee’s closure orders, when the virus appeared to be spreading exponentially, but are higher than at any point before November.
“We are still in a precarious position for hospitalizations,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist.
“We want to continue to see those numbers come down,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the new state Health secretary. “Whether it’s in the health care system or in the community, we’ve got to work on this and be able to drive the numbers down.”
Inslee had called Nov. 15, the day he issued the closure orders, “the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history.”
“Our consistent mission has been keeping Washingtonians safe and ensuring health care system and hospital capacity,” Inslee said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “We understand the profound impact COVID is having on our health care system, families and businesses, but I am heartened by the number of Washingtonians who continue to do the right thing.”
Inslee’s office said an updated plan would be released next week “to provide a pathway for businesses and workers impacted by this order to reopen safely.”
The Washington Hospitality Association, which represents restaurants and hotels around the state, said such a plan was overdue.
“Hospitality operators are falling deeper in the red, hospitality workers remain out of work, businesses are closing, and household bills are going unpaid,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the association. “When will main street businesses see a plan from the governor that will pull them back from the brink rather than pushing them over it?”
Working Washington, a workers’ rights organization, said they were glad to see Inslee extend the restrictions and lobbied for more aid for workers.
“If the state does modify restrictions over the next two weeks, we hope the new guidelines will reflect the reality that indoor dining is not an essential service, put restaurant workers’ health first, and provide workers economic relief too,” Sage Wilson, a Working Washington spokesperson, said.
The restrictions require restaurants and bars to shut down indoor service and to limit outdoor service to parties of five or fewer. Indoor gyms and fitness centers must also shut; same with movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums. Indoor gatherings with people outside your household are prohibited unless participants have quarantined for at least a week and tested negative for the virus.
The restrictions do not apply to schools, which are mostly operating remotely, or to the court system. They also do not apply to child care, which is operating under its own guidelines. Construction and manufacturing businesses can also continue to operate.
While the restrictions have the most obvious impacts on restaurants, gyms and theaters, they reach into nearly all arenas of public life.
Wedding and funeral ceremonies are limited to 30 people. Receptions are prohibited.
Retail stores, including grocery stores, and malls must limit occupancy to 25% of capacity and must close food-court seating.
Offices are required to mandate employees work from home, if possible, and must limit occupancy to 25% if they remain open. They must be closed to the public.
Long-term care facilities can accept visitors only in outdoor settings, with limited exceptions for end-of-life care and essential support personnel.
Personal services, such as barber shops and salons, are limited to 25% capacity.
Real-estate open houses are prohibited. Youth and adult sports are limited to outdoor-only intrateam practices and athletes must wear masks.
College and professional sports are allowed to continue. Inslee previously cited the “rigorous protocols” they have put in place for allowing them to continue.
Staff writer Bethany Jean Clement contributed to this report.