OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday he is tightening restrictions throughout the state for 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 at a news conference. “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.
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. The new restrictions go into effect July 30 and will be in force for the foreseeable future, he said.
Wedding ceremonies, both religious and secular, still will be allowed, while receptions will be prohibited. 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 that for counties in Phase 2 of the governor’s four-phase reopening plan, such as King and Snohomish, 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 3 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.
“We do not take these steps lightly,” Inslee said. “We know every prohibition is a challenge for individuals and business owners.”
Indeed, Barry and Heather Boyle, owners of The Irishmen in Everett, expressed frustration, saying that the governor is unfairly targeting their industry while not acting to curb large social gatherings every day in parks and on beaches.
Making last call at 10 p.m. could cause a loss of up to 70% of revenue, Barry Boyle said.
“This could put us out of business completely,” he said.
As of Thursday, the state Department of Health had logged a cumulative total of 50,009 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in January, with 1,482 deaths.
In Snohomish County, there have been 4,620 cases so far and 182 deaths, according to the Snohomish Health District.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday Snohomish County fell out of compliance with a fourth of five key risk-assessment metrics tracked by state officials. The five metrics help them gauge the magnitude of the outbreak and help determine a county’s progress through the governor’s four-phase reopening plan. Snohomish County has been in Phase 2 since early June.
Snohomish County still meets the goal for a low number of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients. But it is not meeting goals for overall hospital-bed occupancy, the rate of newly diagnosed cases, the rate of COVID testing or the percentage of people testing positive.
At Thursday’s news conference, 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, which was to expire Aug. 1, will be extended to Oct. 15, Inslee said. An additional $100 million in federal coronavirus aid will be made available for rental assistance to help landlords and property owners keep their businesses running, he said.
Lisa Baumann of The Associated Press and Chuck Taylor and Jerry Cornfield of The Herald contributed.