Face masks now required in 'common spaces' in Washington state
Gov. Jay Inslee is imposing further restrictions on bars, restaurants, fitness centers and wedding and funeral services to help limit the spread of coronavirus. Author: KING 5 Staff
Published: 3:29 PM PDT July 23, 2020
Updated: 5:22 PM PDT July 25, 2020
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee has announced plans to implement more restrictions on businesses, weddings and funeral services, and an expansion of the state's face mask mandate to help limit the spread of COVID-19 as the state sees a resurgence of the virus.
"These actions we are taking today is certainly not an effort to punish businesses," said Gov. Inslee during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
People are now required to wear face masks in common spaces such as elevators, hallways and shared spaces in apartment buildings, university housing and hotels, as well as congregate settings like nursing homes.
The governor also announced indoor dining at restaurants will now be limited to members of the same household only. People in a mixed group will have to eat outside. For counties in Phase 3, there may only be five people at a table and total occupancy cannot exceed 50%. Previously, counties in Phase 3 could have 10 people or less to a table at a restaurant and 75% occupancy.
Alcohol sales must also end at 10 p.m. Bars will have to close indoor services and can only serve people outside. Bars will also have to close game areas like pool tables, video games and dartboards.
The owner of Diesel, a bar in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, said it's stressful for his establishment that doesn't necessarily have the space to provide enough outdoor seating to stay open.
"But if he needs us to close down for a short period of time, maybe a month, and get through this little spike then I'll comply and go for it, you know, we don't really have a choice," he said.
Fitness centers will also be forced to have limited capacity. Fitness centers and gyms in Phase 2 counties will be limited to five people. For counties in Phase 3, gyms will be limited to 25% occupancy.
The changes for restaurants, bars and gyms go into effect on July 30.
The governor is also prohibiting family entertainment and recreation centers, like mini-golf, bowling alleys and arcades from being open until Phase 4. Indoor card rooms will also be prohibited from opening until Phase 4.
Gov. Inslee said indoor movie theater occupancy will be limited to 25% in Phase 3.
"These prohibitions are apart of our approach but they only supplement what we really need which is for individuals to make individual decisions for the good of the community," said Gov. Inslee, referencing the importance of wearing face masks in public and continuing to socially distance.
There will also be changes for wedding ceremonies and funeral services.
Receptions are no longer allowed. Ceremonies are permitted with 20% occupancy or 30 people, whichever is less, and people must maintain six feet of physical distance and wear face masks.
The changes for weddings and funerals take effect on August 6.
"But we do know this, at the moment, the only effective tool against this pandemic is to change some of our practices," said Gov. Inslee. "The rate of transmission has been increasing around the state. Our suppression of this virus is not where it needs to be to continue to allow more activity."
There are currently 50,009 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington state as of Thursday afternoon. That number includes 1,482 deaths from the virus.
A total of 870,763 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Washington and of those 5.7% of the tests came back positive, according to the Washington Department of Health.
The statewide mandate requiring face masks to be worn in public spaces or outside where six feet of physical distance is not possible is also expanding.
"We're losing the momentum we had during the early months of this response," said Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman. "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."
Gov. Inslee also announced Thursday that he's extending his eviction moratorium until October 15.
The stricter guidelines were announced just as the United States was the first to reach 4 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.