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Gov. Jay Inslee
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Gov. Inslee extends statewide ban on indoor dining, gatherings to January

Gov. Jay Inslee. (TVW)

Governor Jay Inslee has extended the current statewide COVID-19 restrictions that ban indoor dining, indoor gatherings, and limit capacity at retail establishments until Jan. 4, 2021.

“Today, we are announcing a package of decisions that will continue to protect the health and lives of Washingtonians, including a three-week extension of the current restrictions, as well as an economic aid additional package to help the people having difficult times as a result of these restrictions,” Inslee said Tuesday. “This is because we remain concerned about COVID activity and we still do not have a clear picture of the situation following the Thanksgiving weekend.”

The rules are an extension of the announcement from the governor in November, which had been set to remain in effect until at least Dec. 14. The rules were put in place before the Thanksgiving holiday, hoping to further discourage people from gathering in large groups with family and friends.

The three-week extension starts from the original Dec. 14 end date, which puts the new end date at Jan. 4. Gov. Inslee says it’s possible the state could “recalibrate” before Jan. 4, if there is significant improvement.

“But we don’t know enough yet about the pandemic’s course to be able to do that. This remains an extremely alarming situation,” he said.

As part of the restrictions, indoor social gatherings with people from outside your household are still prohibited. Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to five people from outside your household. Restaurants and bars will remain closed for indoor service, but to-go service is permitted, as is outdoor dining with restrictions to include adequate spacing, enhanced cleaning, and capacity limits.

Fitness facilities and gyms are also closed for indoor operations. In-store retail, including grocery stores, is limited to 25% indoor occupancy and any common or congregate non-food related seating areas must be closed.

To help mitigate the impact of these restrictions, Gov. Inslee also announced the state will be distributing an additional $50 million in economic support for struggling businesses.

“I realize this amount is not going to solve everyone’s problems associated with this pandemic,” the governor said, but they’ll be looking for additional options to help businesses.

Lisa Brown, the state commerce director, said restaurants, breweries, bars, yoga studios, and those types of venues are the hardest hit, and will be prioritized first for aid.

So far, Washington CARES Act spending has gone to rental assistance, food assistance, energy bills for low-income families, care care services, and to local governments and communities.

Inslee also said that if Congress fails to act on relief, the state is prepared to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits beyond Dec. 25. He added that business owners, self-employed workers, and independent contractors will be eligible for relief.

In terms of the current COVID-19 picture in Washington state, Inslee says there’s good news and bad news, mentioning the vaccine as an exciting “bright light” in the weeks ahead.

“We see a possibility of some good news that in the last week there may have been a lessening of the rate of increase,” Inslee said, adding that “we have not gone far enough post-Thanksgiving to tell if we’ve had enough success in taming this beast.”

The three-week extension lasts through the December holidays and into the new year. Gov. Inslee says that Washingtonians made hard decisions in November and at Thanksgiving, and he is asking people to refrain from gathering in large groups for the holidays this month as well.

Similar to his message before Thanksgiving, the governor says by limiting our activities this year, we can hopefully all be together with our friends and family next year.

“It was the right thing to do in November, and will be the right thing to do in December,” Inslee said.

Also in effect is a travel advisory, which asks travelers to Washington to quarantine for 14 days. This advisory was made in partnership with the governors of Oregon and California.

The advisory encompasses any travelers arriving in Washington from out of the state or country, “including returning Washington residents.” This does not apply to anyone who crosses state or international borders for “essential travel.”

The latest rules on indoor gatherings, enacted on Nov. 15, are as follows:

    • Indoor social gatherings with people from outside your household are prohibited.
    • Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to 5 people from outside your household.
    • Restaurants and bars are closed for indoor service. Outdoor dining and to-go service is permitted. Outdoor dining must follow the outdoor dining restriction. Table size limited to 5 for outdoor dining. These restaurant restrictions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, November 18.
    • Fitness facilities and gyms are closed for indoor operations. Outdoor fitness classes may still occur but they are limited by the outdoor gathering restriction listed above. Drop off childcare closed.
    • Bowling Centers are closed for indoor service.
    • Miscellaneous Venues: All retail activities and business meetings are prohibited. Only professional training and testing that cannot be performed remotely is allowed. Occupancy in each meeting room is limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
    • Movie Theaters are closed for indoor service. Drive-in movie theaters are still permitted and must follow the current drive-in movie theater guidance.
    • Museums/Zoos/Aquariums are closed for indoor service.
    • Real Estate open houses are prohibited.
    • Wedding and Funerals receptions are prohibited. Ceremonies are limited to no more than 30 people.
    • In-store retail limited to 25% indoor occupancy and must close any common/congregate non-food related seating areas. Food court indoor seating is closed.
    • Religious services limited to 25% indoor occupancy no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer. No choir, band, or ensemble shall perform during the service. Soloists are permitted to perform. Facial coverings must be worn at all times by congregation members and no congregational singing.
    • Professional Services are required to mandate that employees work from home when possible, and to close offices to the public. If they remain open, occupancy is restricted to 25%.
    • Personal services are limited to 25% of maximum occupancy.
    • Long-term Care Facilities outdoor visits only. Exceptions can be made for essential support person and end-of-life care.
    • Youth (school and non-school) and adult sporting activities limited to outdoor only for intrateam practices, masks required for athletes.

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