OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said he is ordering the temporary statewide closure of all bars, restaurants, gyms and other facilities to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Inslee said the ban, to be issued Monday via emergency proclamation to be signed later in the day, wouldn’t apply to grocery stores and pharmacies and that restaurants could continue take-out and delivery services.
The restrictions — which cover a range of facilities, including tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons and bowling alleys — will last until at least March 31 but could be expanded.
The governor also revised his ban on events to prohibit gatherings of 50 or more people. Previously the size limit was more than 250.
Gatherings of fewer people are discouraged, and they are prohibited if organizers don’t ensure proper precautions.
“This is bigger than all of us, and I am fully confident that Washingtonians will rise to this challenge to get back to a normal state of our life as soon as humanly possible,” Inslee said at a news conference in Seattle, joined by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine and others. “But all of us have to recognize for the next several weeks, normal is not in our game plan.”
Inslee said he recognized the “enormous economic implications and social disruptions” will occur because of the closures, but he said work will be done in the coming days to minimize those challenges.
“But today we know we are doing this for a simple reason, to save lives of our loved ones in Washington,” he said. “Hours count. It’s not that weeks count, hours count. So we need very strong measures to reduce the extent and pace of this infestation.”
Other states have also moved to implement similar measures. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close in the nation’s most populous state.
The governors of Ohio, Massachusetts and Illinois also ordered bars and restaurants to shutter.
Public health officials in the Seattle area reported two more COVID-19 deaths, bring the total statewide to at least 42.
Constantine said that, while he was grateful for those in the state who have changed the way they work and travel, it became clear to him over the weekend that the county needed to do more.
“Not all people are practicing appropriate social distancing and good health practices in every situation,” he said. “We are at a critical moment in this crisis.”
Both additional deaths announced Sunday were residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, the suburban nursing home that has been the center of the outbreak in the hard-hit region. They were a woman in her 60s who died Saturday and a woman in her 70s who died Thursday.
That makes 29 coronavirus-related fatalities linked to the nursing home. There are more than 750 confirmed cases statewide.
The state Department of Health said 8 percent of the more than 9,400 people who have been screened for COVID-19 tested positive.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
Inslee also made a personal plea to people aged 60 and older and those with underlying health risks, saying they are at substantial risk, citing increased mortality rates.
“You need to self-isolate, starting right now,” he said. “This is not a legal statement by the governor, but it’s as strong as a recommendation as I can possibly make.”
Tyler Baldwin, a bartender at the Taproom in Pike Place Market in Seattle, was mopping up Sunday night after learning about the upcoming closures.
Baldwin, 29, said the closure would be hard and that he will need to start “figuring out unemployment, food stamps, really whatever the next step to keep myself afloat is.”
Baldwin said there had been fewer and fewer customers in his bar the past few weeks, which is located in one of Seattle’s biggest tourist attractions.
“I’m still in the throes of processing it,” he said. “It means I need to find a way to support myself from home.”
King County’s order goes into effect immediately while the statewide ban takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Constantine said he understands the financial hardships residents have been asked to endure, but he stressed people should assume that, at this point, they and everyone they meet has been exposed and are potentially infected.
“Go to work if you must, but hunker down if you’re able,” he said. “Postpone anything you can. Treat the next two weeks as a period of self-quarantine to protect yourself and the lives and health of your loved ones and of our community.”