Restaurants, bars, weddings and funerals face greater restrictions as Washington takes a stagger step on 'Safe Start' plan

Leader news staff
news@ptleader.com
Posted 7/24/20

Restaurants, bars, and fitness centers will have stricter rules due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced Thursday.

New restrictions will …

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Restaurants, bars, weddings and funerals face greater restrictions as Washington takes a stagger step on 'Safe Start' plan

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Restaurants, bars, and fitness centers will have stricter rules due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced Thursday.

New restrictions will also be placed on gatherings for weddings and funerals.

Officials said the changes to the “Safe Start” reopening plan were needed because confirmed cases of COVID-19 have climbed from 2,000 to nearly 50,000 in the four months since Washington's “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order was put in place. Deaths from the coronavirus have also risen, from 110 to nearly 1,500 since March.

Restaurants, bars, gyms, and funerals and weddings are being targeted because officials noted that such places and activities have a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.

The new changes will also affect family entertainment centers, movie theaters and card rooms.

“We do not take these steps lightly,” Inslee said during a press conference Thursday.

"We know every prohibition is a challenge for individuals and business owners. But we know that if we fail to act, we expose people and businesses to even greater risk down the line,” Inslee said.

“We’re losing the momentum we had during the early months of this response,” Wiesman added.

“Looking ahead to the fall and hopes of schools reopening, we must dig back in to regain control," he 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.”

Under the new changes, weddings and funeral ceremonies will remain permitted, but receptions will be banned.

Ceremonies must adhere to the current guidance on social distancing, and maximum indoor occupancy is limited to 20 percent, or up to 30 people, whichever is less.

The enhanced restrictions go into effect Thursday, Aug. 6, which state officials said would give a grace period for weddings and funerals that have been already scheduled to take place.

New regulations for bars and restaurants will start Thursday, July 30.

Restaurants must also require dining parties to be members of the same household in order to eat indoors.

Outdoor dining and take-away ordering will still be allowed for small parties from different households.

For counties that are currently in Phase 3 of the reopening plan, the table size for dine-in restaurant customers will be reduced to five individuals and occupancy reduced from 75 percent to 50 percent.

Restaurants must also close any areas that are dedicated to gaming activities, in places with pool tables, dart boards, and video games.

Bars will be closed for indoor service, but can continue outdoor service. Alcohol service inside of restaurants must end by 10 p.m.

Also starting July 30 are new rules for fitness centers.
The number of individuals allowed to use fitness centers, gyms and other physical health venues at a given time will also be reduced.

In Phase 2, only five individuals — not including staff — will be allowed for indoor fitness services at a time. This includes gyms, fitness studios, and indoor pools, ice rinks, volleyball courts, and tennis facilities. These are limited to small group instruction or private training.

Fitness center occupancy in counties operating at Phase 3 will be reduced to 25 percent, and all group fitness classes are limited to no more than 10, not including the instructors.

At the press conference Thursday, Wiesman also announced an expansion of his earlier order on face coverings that will go into effect Saturday, July 25.

The expansion will require face coverings in all common spaces, such as elevators, hallways and shared spaces in hotels, apartment buildings, and university housing, as well as congregate settings such as nursing homes.

Inslee also announced he was extending the state’s eviction moratorium to Oct. 15.

Details will be released later, officials said.

In addition to the moratorium, the extension also directs Governor’s Office staff to convene an informal work group of landlords and tenants to discuss potential changes — both short-term and long-term — as the pandemic progresses, including the prospect of rent increases.

“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," the governor added. "These prohibitions are part of our approach, but they only supplement what we really need, which is for individuals to continue to make safe decisions and adhere to healthy practices.”

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