Washington state will remain in partial lockdown through Jan. 4, with continued bans on indoor dining and indoor social gatherings lasting at least an additional three weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Inslee didn’t introduce any new restrictions. But he said the continued severity of the COVID-19 pandemic warrants extending the limits he announced in mid-November.
In addition to closing indoor areas of restaurants and bars, the ongoing restrictions keep many businesses such as movie theaters and gyms closed throughout the state. Retail establishments and grocery stores can continue to operate at 25% capacity, as can personal service businesses such as barber shops and nail salons.
Professional and college level sports weren’t subject to the new restrictions, but high school athletes remain unable to play other teams and must continue to wear masks during play.
Significantly, Washington residents remain banned from gathering indoors with anyone outside of their immediate household. Small outdoor gatherings are still allowed, as is outdoor dining, as long as social distancing and other requirements are met.
The Washington state Department of Health announced 6,972 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, although that number reflected a backlog of cases from recent days, as well as an estimated 1,800 duplicate cases.
On Monday, the department warned that people need to refrain from gathering with members of other households throughout the December holidays. The agency urged people to limit their holiday celebrations to only members of their immediate households, citing the recent rise in coronavirus cases.
“As the state continues to experience very high COVID-19 activity, now is not the time to let our guard down” said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary of health for COVID-19, in a press release. “We understand that people want to gather with friends and extended family in-person for the holidays, but that just isn’t possible to do safely this year. Many of us discovered creative and unique ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, and we are asking everyone to do the same when planning their winter holiday celebrations.”
While announcing the extension of the restrictions, Inslee also announced $50 million more in forthcoming support for businesses. That’s in addition to $100 million in business relief he announced last month, which was accompanied by $35 million to help people pay their rent and utility bills.
As of Monday, there have been 184,004 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington state, according to the Health Department. The number of people hospitalized with the disease reached 11,695, while 2,941 people have died.
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