By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday night that he would order all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities to temporarily close to fight the spread of coronavirus in the state with by far the most deaths in the U.S. from the disease.
In a statement Inslee said the ban, to be issued via emergency proclamation Monday, wouldn’t apply to grocery stores or pharmacies and that restaurants could continue takeout and delivery services.
No time frame was given on how long the restrictions will last. A spokesman for Inslee said they would take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, which is St. Patrick’s Day — a big moneymaker for many establishments.
The governor also revised his ban on events to prohibit gatherings of 50 or more people. Previously the size limit was more than 250.
“These are very difficult decisions, but hours count here and very strong measures are necessary to slow the spread of the disease. I know there will be significant economic impacts to all our communities and we are looking at steps to help address those challenges,” Inslee said in a statement.
Other governors have instituted such measures. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close in the nation’s most populous state. The governors of Ohio, Massachusetts and Illinois also ordered bars and restaurants to shutter.
Public health officials in the Seattle area reported two more COVID-19 deaths Sunday, bringing the total statewide to at least 42. There are 769 confirmed infections statewide. In Snohomish County, there are 176 cases in Snohomish County, including four deaths.
An emergency room doctor at a suburban Seattle hospital that has treated many people with coronavirus has contracted the disease.
EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland said in a statement Sunday that the doctor was in “critical condition but stable.”
Dr. Liam Yore, the immediate past president of the Washington Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told The Seattle Times the doctor was in his 40s. Yore told the newspaper the doctor had used personal protective equipment and that it was not known whether the physician contracted COVID-19 in the community or at work.
King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a statement Sunday night: “We are at a critical moment in this crisis. It is time, right now, for people to assume that they and everyone they meet is infected, to avoid any unnecessary interactions that might lead to further infection, and to wait and monitor to see if they have in fact been infected so that they can isolate and recover without presenting a risk to others. Go to work if you must. But hunker down if you are able.”
Both additional deaths announced Sunday were residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home that has been the center of the outbreak in the hard-hit region. They were a woman in her 60s who died Saturday and a woman in her 70s who died Thursday.
The Washington state Department of Health says that 8 percent of the more than 9,400 people who have been screened for COVID-19 tested positive.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover.