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Washington state bans indoor service at bars, restricts indoor dining

People wear masks as they cross a street Tuesday, July 7, 2020, near a sign for the Pike Place Market in Seattle.
People wear masks as they cross a street Tuesday, July 7, 2020, near a sign for the Pike Place Market in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday he is tightening restrictions throughout the state in restaurants and bars, for weddings and funerals, and at gyms in a further effort to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“I care about businesses opening and people getting back to work, but public health and economic activity go hand in hand,” Inslee said.

“Our suppression of this virus is not at the level it needs to be to continue allowing for more activity. If we let this virus get even more out of control, it will have devastating effects on our health and on our economy.”

B.C. premier concerned about COVID-19 caseload in Alberta, Washington state
B.C. premier concerned about COVID-19 caseload in Alberta, Washington state

The rate of disease transmission has been increasing around the state with a spike in transmission among people in their 20s spreading into all age groups in Washington, he said.

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The changes mostly affect indoor activities where the risk of virus exposure could be highest, officials said. For restaurants, indoor dining will be limited to members of the same household and alcohol service must end at 10 p.m. Bars, taverns, breweries, wineries and distilleries must close all indoor service, regardless of whether food is served, Inslee said.

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Those rules go into effect July 30.

Wedding ceremonies, both religious and secular, still will be allowed, while receptions will be prohibited.

Those changes also take effect next July 30, but weddings and funerals within the next two weeks can take place under previous guidelines, Inslee said.

When it comes to fitness, Inslee said for counties in Phase 2, such as King County, only 5 people, not including staff, are allowed for indoor fitness services at a time.

The restrictions include gyms, fitness studios, indoor pools, ice rinks, volleyball and tennis courts.

Gyms in phase three counties must reduce occupancy to 25 per cent and limit group fitness classes to 10 participants.

Mask wearing becomes mandatory in Washington State
Mask wearing becomes mandatory in Washington State

Businesses such as card rooms, bowling alleys and arcades now cannot open until Phase 4 and indoor movie theatre occupancy will be limited to 25 per cent in Phase 3.

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State Health Department Secretary John Wiesman on Thursday expanded the face covering mandate to include common spaces such as elevators and hallways in places such as university housing, hotels and nursing homes.

Those rules go into effect on Saturday.

The statewide eviction moratorium also will be extended again but details will come later, Inslee said.

Read more: Seattle to shut 20 miles of streets to most vehicles amid coronavirus pandemic

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

Nearly 50,000 people in the state have tested positive for the disease and nearly 1,500 people in Washington have died of complications from COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.