Renewed restrictions on in-person gatherings, restaurants, bars
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Gov. Jay Inslee announced restrictions Sunday, Nov. 15 that prohibit indoor social gatherings under practically all circumstances. The new rules are not a stay-at-home order like what happened in March, but it prohibits having guests over and closes many functions back down.
At-home gatherings are being blamed for a new surge of coronavirus cases as the weather is bringing people inside.
Inslee's statewide restrictions last to Dec. 14 -- four weeks. Most begin Monday, Nov. 16 at 11:59 p.m. They are:
* People are not allowed to have guests or friends over for indoor gatherings unless those guests have isolated themselves for 14 days prior, or if they have isolated themselves for seven days and had a recent COVID-19 test showing they are negative.
* People can gather outdoors with guests as long as it is no more than five people.
* Restaurants and bars go back to being closed for indoor service. Take-out is still available. Outdoor dining is allowed for five or less people at a table. These restrictions begin Wednesday, Nov. 18.
* Gyms, bowling alleys, museums, zoos, aquariums and movie theaters are closed for indoor services. Exhibitions are prohibited.
* In-person events such as bazaars are prohibited.
* Church services are restricted to 25 percent capacity, 200 people, whichever is fewer.
* Weddings and funerals are still allowed with under 30 guests, but receptions are prohibited.
* plus a few others not listed here.
Barbershops, nail salons, hair salons and others will remain open with limited capacity, as will child care services. The construction industry is not affected in these restrictions.
A surge of positive coronavirus cases that are sending people to the hospital is why the government is reinstating limits. Officials want hospital space kept open to be able to also serve non-COVID patients.
The restrictions do not close down schools, where masks are required inside. The rules are targeted at gatherings, where people typically do not wear masks, and situations where people remove masks to eat and drink.
"The most dangerous place right now is in our own homes, at our dining room tables," Inslee said during a press conference Sunday. "It's so easy to be infected by the people you love, and vice-versa."
On Saturday, Nov. 14, there were 2,286 new positive COVID-19 cases tallied statewide.
Cases are rising among all age groups, and transmission is spreading. This risks reaching older populations and create more deaths, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state's health officer, in a Nov. 9 joint meeting of health officials.
The clock for a 14-day quarantine for Thanksgiving would have started Thursday, Nov. 12. Relatives and friends cannot come for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner legally if they didn't start isolating themselves at home by then. Health officials hinted publicly Thursday, Nov. 12 that people should begin their isolation then if they want to meet.
The public's reaction was largely negative on Facebook comments during the livestream of Inslee's press conference Sunday. A common thread in reactions was it is unfair to keep public spaces open but say people can't gather for Thanksgiving. Some say openly that they'll ignore the rules because they came from Inslee.
Hospital availability and exhausted medical staff are being placed front and center in the latest messages from officials.
Hospital beds need to stay open for non-COVID related needs such as surgery.
History during summer showed that a mass of people going to the hospital came two weeks after there was a rise in cases. This is what scares health officials since more people lately are being confirmed to have the virus.
"Left unchecked, (COVID-19) will leave grossly overburdened hospitals," Inslee said in his Sunday statement.
In Snohomish County, the number of coronavirus patients using hospital beds has grown to 44 as of Tuesday, Nov. 9, with six on mechanical ventilators, said the county's health officer, Dr. Chris Spitters. The week before, it was 25 people. The county has 908 hospital beds.
"We're seeing a rapid rise in hospitalizations in Snohomish County," and more people in the ICU, said Dr. George Diaz, an infectious diseases physician at Providence Medical Center Everett.
There are people in their 20s and 30s in the ICU at Harborview, Dr. John Lynch of Harborview said in a joint meeting of health officials Nov. 9.
The issue with people going to the hospital is that they don't leave quickly. A serious COVID-19 case can mean staying 10 weeks in the hospital, state health officials said. Half the people hospitalized in Snohomish County stayed for one week or less and either left alive or dead, from Snohomish county Health District data. The problem is that if the virus sends people to the hospital, these people begin to fill up hospitals, leaving less room and making it harder on staff.
Hospitals are using about 80 percent of their beds for all other medical needs such as heart attacks and strokes.
In related news
The governor also announced a $50 million to mitigate impacts on businesses and workers. The state has the cash-in-hand, and is working out details on how to disburse the money, Inslee said Sunday.
State unemployment benefits will not run out, Inslee said.
Inslee noted hoarding supplies is not needed. "There's no necessity of it right now."
Officials hope people will skip large Thanksgiving gatherings this year.
Canada's Thanksgiving on Oct. 12 created spikes of cases in some parts of the nation afterward, even though the Canadian government asked people to celebrate only with people in their immediate household.
"We cannot afford (what happened in Canada) in Washington state," Lacy Fehrenbach, assistant secretary for the state Department of Health, said in a Nov. 9 joint presentation.
In Snohomish County, in October there were 36,526 tests done, and 1,983 positive test results, or about 6 percent of the people tested came back positive as carrying the virus.
Test positivity has doubled from last month, Spitters said.
Last month in the county there were 35 deaths from COVID-19. One in five of those deaths was someone under the age of 50, Spitters said.
In other news
* Providence Everett last week experienced a small patient outbreak of COVID-19 within a unit of the hospital, KOMO-TV reported.
A call to a Providence spokesman was not returned by press time.
Other hospitals, such as MutliCare in Auburn, also saw outbreaks within the hospital.
* Nationally, Chicago's mayor set a 30-day stay at home order and asked residents to cancel Thanksgiving. New York's governor ordered bars and restaurants to close indoors at 10 p.m. statewide.
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