OLYMPIA, WA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced new restrictions on businesses and activities, as the state grapples with a growing number of coronavirus cases and increased transmission rates.
Inslee noted that Thursday marked four months since his original "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order was announced. At that time, 110 Washingtonians had died. Today, the death toll is closer to 1,500, with more than 50,000 confirmed illnesses recorded across the state.
After initial success in flattening the curve, cases began to surge June, and daily case totals remain about double those seen during the previous peak. While some of that number is due to a large increase in testing, the virus's transmission rate is well above target levels in many counties throughout Washington.
Some of the rules announced Thursday apply equally across phases, while others differ depending on the step each county has reached in the Safe Start plan. Added restrictions for businesses will go into effect on Thursday, July 30, and rules for weddings and funerals begin in two weeks.
New restrictions for restaurants, bars, weddings and fitness centers
Weddings & Funerals
All phases will be required to limit indoor occupancy to 20 percent or 30 people maximum. Six feet of space must be maintained between members of different households.
Wedding ceremonies are allowed, but receptions are prohibited.
Restaurants & Bars
All indoor dining will be limited to members of the same household. Groups including people from outside the household can dine in outdoor areas, in accordance with previous guidance. Counties in Phase 3 must reduce table sizes to five people and cap indoor occupancy at 50 percent.
Indoor service at all bars, breweries, taverns, wineries and distilleries will not be allowed, even if food is available. Outdoor service is permitted, under the state's previous guidance for each phase.
All game areas, including arcade spaces, pool tables and darts, must remain closed until Phase 4.
Fitness Centers & Gyms
In Phase 2 counties, indoor fitness facilities are limited to just five patrons at a time. This rule applies to gyms, pools and all other types of fitness centers.
For Phase 3 counties, fitness centers are limited to 25 percent capacity, with no more than 10 participants in a single class.
Read more about the new restictions on the governor's blog.
State will extend eviction moratorium; some federal relief for renters
Acknowledging that further restrictions are likely to cause an extended period of financial strain for many Washingtonians, Inslee announced he would extend the statewide moratorium on evictions until at least Oct. 15. The order in place now was set to expire in mid-August.
The governor said $100 million in CARES Act funding will be distributed to low-income renters, but a final plan is still in the works. Inslee said the federal government released an additional $120 million in funding for homeless shelters and rental assistance.
Further financial assistance, the governor said, will likely be contingent upon whether Congress authorizes another federal relief funding package.
"I know we are all tired of how long this emergency has gone on, and the pain it has inflicted in our households and our communities," Inslee said. "But we all remain steadfast in our refusal to allow COVID-19 to overwhelm our society, and we will lean on each other to get the job done. This is not the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do."
Mask mandate expands Saturday
State Secretary of Health John Wiesman will expand a statewide mandate on face coverings to include all common spaces, including outdoors, beginning Saturday, July 25. Wiesman said his order will include elevators, shared spaces in apartment buildings, student houses and essentially any area outside the home where contact with others is likely.
"Looking ahead to the fall and hopes of schools reopening, we must dig back in to regain control," Wiesman said. "Fewer, shorter, and safer interactions are crucial. Staying home is still safest but if you go out, keep it quick, keep your distance from others, and wear your face covering."
Wiesman cited the early success seen in Yakima County, where mask rules were implemented amid a surge in cases, as a point of encouragement that face coverings can make a notable difference in curbing the virus's transmission rate.
Pause on reopening will continue until further notice
Earlier in the month, Inslee extended a pause on reopening phases across the state, running through July. Asked Thursday whether the freeze would continue, the governor said, "I see no way that would be changed given the infection rates we're experiencing."
Watch the governor's full press conference: