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Gov. Inslee tightens restrictions for weddings, funerals, restaurants, bars, gyms

Gov. Jay Inslee. (TVW)

Gov. Inslee on Thursday announced he will tighten restrictions for weddings, funeral, restaurants, bars, and gyms, among other recreational activities.

The changes to Inslee’s Safe Start plan for reopening Washington state also affect family entertainment centers, movie theaters, and card rooms. Additionally, the state also announced an expansion to the mask mandate, asking residents to wear a face covering in all common areas. Inslee also extended the Eviction Moratorium Extension to Oct. 15.

“We do not take these steps lightly. We know every prohibition is a challenge for individuals and business owners,” Inslee said. “But we know that if we fail to act, we expose people and businesses to even greater risk down the line.”

The new guidelines for businesses will take effect on July 30. Changes to guidelines for weddings and funerals take effect on Aug. 6.

On July 14, Gov. Inslee announced a statewide pause on movement to any of the four phases of the Safe Start plan. It applies to all counties in all phases and lasts through at least July 28. However, KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott reports the governor’s office said the pause on moving to the next phases due to expire next week will be extended. All new restrictions are until further notice.

“These decisions are not easy, but they are guided by science,” Inslee said on Thursday.

Health requirements for weddings and funerals apply both to secular and to religious services.
• Ceremonies are permitted, receptions are prohibited. They must continue to adhere to all other parts of the current guidance.
• For all phases, the maximum indoor occupancy for these events is 20%, or up to 30 people, whichever is less, as long as there can be six feet of distance between households.
• There will be a grace period under these changes for weddings and funerals scheduled to take place in the next two weeks may take place under previous guidance.

The following changes will go into effect one week from now.

For restaurants and bars:
• Indoor dining is limited to members of the same household. Put simply: If you’re looking for a seat with people you don’t share a home with, sit outside. If you’re there with people who are in your household, you’ll be allowed to sit indoors. We are taking this step because we believe it reduces the potential for exposure and transmission in dine-in settings.
• Restaurants must also close down vending game areas – like pool tables, darts, video games – until Phase 4.
• In Phase 3, table size will be reduced to 5 and occupancy to 50% indoors.
• Alcohol service at restaurants must end at 10 p.m.
• Bars will be closed for indoor service. Bars are defined as… taverns, breweries, wineries, and distilleries – regardless of their ability to provide food service.

Fitness guidance:
• In Phase 2, only 5 individuals – not including staff – are 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, not to exceed five participants.
• Fitness center occupancy in Phase 3 will be reduced to 25%. All group fitness classes are limited to no more than 10, not including the instructor.

Other rollbacks:
• Prohibiting indoor family entertainment and recreation centers – like mini golf, bowling alleys, and arcades – from being open until Phase 4.
• Prohibiting indoor card rooms from being open until Phase 4.
• Indoor movie theater occupancy will be limited to 25% in Phase 3.

Expansion to mask mandate

Sec. John Wiesman, Washington State Department of Health, said that wearing a face covering is showing promising results, especially in Yakima County where the mandate took effect even before a statewide action. Wiesman said the local health district has reported about a 95% compliance rate.

Wiesman then announced an expansion to his statewide mask mandate. He is asking all residents to wear a face covering in common areas, including in elevators, hallways, university housing, hotels, motels, and assisted living facilities. The expansion will take effect on Saturday, July 25.

“I know many of us are tired and wish we could go back to the way it was before,” Wiesman said.

As for backyard barbecues and gatherings, Inslee emphasized that there are laws in place about the size of gatherings and face coverings. He specifically asked parents to insist that their teens and kids in their 20s act responsibly.

“All I can do is ask at this point — technically it is a crime, it is a misdemeanor — but it’s worse than that. You can kill someone you love,” Inslee said.

The governor explained, for example, that if you’re climbing Mount Rainier and there are no other hikers for miles around, you probably don’t need to wear a mask. But if you might run into someone and can’t keep at least six feet apart, you should wear a mask.

Eviction Moratorium Extension

Gov. Inslee extended the Eviction Moratorium Extension to Oct. 15, which also directs his staff to start a working group of landlords and tenants to review the order in the short-term and long-term.

Extension Expectations from Inslee:

  • I expect landlords and tenants to remain in communication. If you haven’t spoken to them since March, when we first announced this moratorium, it’s imperative that you do.
  • This is meant to protect renters from falling into homelessness if they are struggling. But it does not give you the right to refuse to pay rent if you have the means to do so.
  • Similarly, this proclamation does not allow landlords to harass or intimidate tenants. This proclamation allows for ways to constructively collaborate on securing payments.
  • Criminal behavior and other threats to public health and safety are still a cause for evictions.
  • My office, through the Department of Commerce, has released $100 million in CARES Act funds for rental assistance to help landlords and property owners keep their businesses running. This compliments the $300 million in CARES funds I released to local governments to pay for a broad array of immediate services, which could include additional rental assistance if localities so choose.
  • The federal government also released approximately $120 million in HUD funding which can be used for shelter operations and rental assistance
  • Lastly, I just ask people to remember to be good neighbors. We’re all staying home more, and may be for some time to come. If you’re up late because you’re anxious, please remember the folks next door are probably trying to sleep, and that they’re probably anxious as well. A little courtesy among neighbors goes a long way.

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