New rules add restrictions on businesses

Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced changes to the ongoing “Safe Start,” plan of phased reopening in Washington that targets activities that they say have shown a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.

In the update, the officials said that these new actions are aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, especially looking ahead to the fall and the re-opening of schools. 

They say that social gatherings continue to be a concern for local health officials, so Inslee and Wiesman proposed updates that reduce the risks of people gathering with others outside their household.

To combat rising numbers of cases statewide, the new guidance and regulations focus on social gatherings around restaurants, bars, and fitness centers, as well as weddings and funerals. 

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

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

Among the updates announced:

  • Restaurants and bars: Beginning next Thursday, bars will close for indoor service. Gaming areas such as pool table or video games must close. At restaurants, alcohol service will end at 10 p.m. Only people from the same household can sit together for indoor dining at restaurants, and capacity will be reduced to 50% and maximum table sizes of five people.
  • Indoor fitness activities will be limited to no more than five individuals in Phase 2 counties. Fitness centers in Phase 3 counties are reduced to 25% capacity and no more than 10 individuals for group fitness classes.
  • Beginning August 6, indoor wedding and funeral ceremonies are limited to 20% capacity or 30 people, whichever is less. Receptions are no longer allowed.
  • Indoor family entertainment and recreation centers are closed until Phase 4. This includes bowling alleys, arcades, etc.
  • Indoor card rooms are closed until Phase 4.
  • Indoor movie theaters are allowed in Phase 3 at 25% occupancy.
  • Beginning Saturday, the secretary’s statewide face covering order will be expanded to include any shared spaces, such as hotel, condo or apartment hallways and elevators, dormitory spaces, etc.

In addition to those changes, Wiesman announced an expansion of his face coverings order 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 apartment buildings, university housing and hotels, as well as congregate setting such as nursing homes.

“We’re losing the momentum we had during the early months of this response,” Wiesman said. “Looking ahead to the fall and hopes of schools reopening, we must dig back in to regain control. 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.”

Inslee also announced an extension of the state’s eviction moratorium to Oct. 15. Details on the extension will be released in the coming days.

Learn more on the governor’s Medium page.