Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, wear masks before taking them off for a rehearsal in the governor’s office before making a statewide televised address on COVID-19 on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, wear masks before taking them off for a rehearsal in the governor’s office before making a statewide televised address on COVID-19 on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Inslee: As Thanksgiving nears, ‘further restrictions’ coming

“Simply put, we have to rethink these holidays,” the governor said in a televised address with his wife.

OLYMPIA — With the pandemic intensifying, Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday appealed to Washingtonians to forego traditional Thanksgiving gatherings to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

The governor said he will be announcing “some further restrictions” on activities as soon as next week.

“We are in as dangerous a position today as we were in March,” Inslee said Thursday evening in a televised address from his private office at the Capitol. “Every single day matters. We cannot wait until our hospital halls are filled with gurneys before we take decisive actions.”

With his wife, Trudi, at his side, the governor urged residents to refrain from social gatherings — from football watch parties to Thanksgiving dinners — because get-togethers are fuel for the latest surge of cases across the state.

“Simply put, we have to rethink these holidays so that we may be thankful when we don’t lose more lives to COVID,” he said. “This is the good news. We’re only going to have to do this once.”

With a vaccine on the way, this should be the only year families and friends are apart on Thanksgiving, Inslee said.

“We will get back to normal,” he said. “The cavalry is on the way, but we need to keep people alive until it gets here.”

Health experts have long said social gatherings, large and small, are fueling a spike in cases.

“Holding gatherings is a threat to all. Stop it,” the Snohomish Health District said in a video Thursday. “Plain and simple: stop the gatherings.”

The health district recommends celebrating Thanksgiving only with members of your immediate household.

Inslee’s speech comes two days after state and local health experts warned that the recent rise in new cases and hospitalizations threatens to overwhelm the capacity of the health care system throughout Washington.

New cases are greatly surpassing previous record highs in Snohomish County and the rest of the state.

Last week, Snohomish County recorded more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the Snohomish Health District. There were four days that each surpassed the highest single-day total of 140. The new daily record is 250, set last week.

The latest two-week case count, which ended Saturday, saw nearly 190 infections per 100,000 people in Snohomish County. Six weeks ago, it was 46.

The number of people hospitalized countywide due to the virus hovered in the mid-20s last week, then jumped to 44 as of Tuesday morning. If the situation worsens, as expected, it will test the capacity of local hospitals, said Dr. Chris Spitters, the county public health officer.

Deaths due to COVID are also rising in Snohomish County. In October, 35 people died from COVID and 20% of them were under the age of 50, he said.

On Thursday, members of Inslee’s staff were to meet with leaders of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, as well as larger cities in those counties, to discuss possible future action.

They expect nuanced restrictions, not another sweeping stay-home order like the one Inslee issued March 23. That order shut down businesses that were deemed non-essential, and it banned public and private gatherings of people, including weddings, funerals and celebrations of life.

Since May, counties have been slowly reopening under a phased “Safe Start” plan. Civic leaders contend businesses are not the source of recent outbreaks and therefore should not be closed down again.

In March, in the days leading up to the stay-home order, Inslee pleaded with people to “change their behavior.”

“We have made some progress, but it is not enough,” he said March 20. “We are still seeing people behaving as if this virus was not a mortal threat.”

When Inslee announced the order three days later, Snohomish County had 519 confirmed COVID cases and 11 deaths.

Since then, 10,000 more Snohomish County residents have tested positive for COVID, and 248 have died from the virus.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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