(RICK BANNAN/Centralia Chronicle)
Businesses and religious ceremonies exempt from group limits…
Counties in advanced stages of reopening will soon have restrictions on the size of allowable gatherings and entertainment options as Gov. Jay Inslee announced rollbacks on some activities due to increased spread of COVID-19.
During a press conference Thursday, July 16, Inslee announced changes to Phase 3 of the “Safe Start Washington” plan, limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people per week and also prohibiting all live entertainment — indoor and outdoor.
The orders will go into effect Monday, July 20, the governor said.
The move comes as Washington state has seen increased transmission of COVID-19. Inslee pointed to data that showed 629 cases a day between June 26 and July 2, the highest since the pandemic began.
Inslee said he has heard from local health officials around the state saying social gatherings have led to increased infections. He also noted a surge in COVID-19 cases among younger individuals, saying that although they were less likely to have severe health risks from infection, they can still spread the disease to those at risk.
He said that the problem could not be completely ascribed to younger individuals shirking gathering restrictions, noting that oftentimes those individuals work jobs with greater contact with the public.
Inslee reiterated that when having small-number gatherings that are allowed, “social distancing is imperative,” adding that outdoor gatherings were safer than indoor ones, “and of course wearing masks (is) absolutely pivotal in any and all of those social get-togethers.”
Inslee said that spiritual services, weddings and funerals were not affected by the change in restrictions.
Inslee said that the changes made that day could be a “forerunner to more rollbacks.” He said that those would be for activities deemed “least-essential for our economy and most dangerous by bringing people together and social settings,” mentioning bars, indoor dining in restaurants and recreational activities such as bowling alleys as examples.
“We cannot rule out the potential for another stay-home order this year,” Inslee said. “How individuals respond to this crisis will determine what will happen to all of us combined.”
The governor said he did not want to see scenes in Washington cities similar to outbreaks in Arizona and Texas, where he said refrigerated trucks were brought in to handle the number of dead who had the disease.
“If these trends were to continue in our state, at some point we will be in that situation,” Inslee remarked.
Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman agreed with the governor’s call for individual action to work toward handling the virus, saying that the potential for schools to reopen in-person was something that would be affected by adherence to the orders.
Inslee said he spoke to Washington State Superintendent for Public Instruction Chris Reykdal on Wednesday, mentioning that it was an update on what school districts were doing in preparation for potential in-person reopenings and that no “dramatic decisions” were made on reopening plans.
Inslee said he’s heard from districts considering a variety of options for reopening including hybrid models where in-person instruction was only on some days. When asked, Inslee said he’d be confident in his own grandchildren going back to in-person instruction given “reasoned” decisions from the district on how best to go about it.
Regarding the rollback, the governor acknowledged that many of the activities affected by the restrictions were previously considered benign, but now carried risk of transmission of COVID-19.
“Hosting backyard barbecues with too many people that would violate this order is now a danger,” Inslee remarked.