Social gatherings for Phase 3 counties to be limited to 10

By Rachel La Corte | The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced a revised coronavirus restriction, limiting indoor and outdoor social gatherings for counties in the third phase of a four-stage reopening plan to 10, down from 50.

COVID-19 activity continues to increase in the state, which saw the first reported case in the United States in January, as well as the nation’s first deadly cluster in a nursing home in Kirkland that began in late February.

Under the Democrat’s new directive, all live indoor and outdoor entertainment would also be banned.

The restriction on gatherings for the 17 counties in Phase 3 — which takes effect Monday — does not apply to spiritual services, weddings and funerals at this time.

The announcement comes just days after Inslee announced a statewide pause for counties looking to advance from their current stage of economic reopening — already in place for two weeks — will continue though at least July 28.

Phase 3 allows gyms and movie theaters to operate at half capacity and restaurants to increase capacity to 75 percent. A prohibition on bar seating at restaurants and taverns was added in this phase earlier this month.

Seventeen counties are currently in Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to operate at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barbershops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30 percent capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a person’s household.

Five counties — Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin and Yakima — are currently the only counties in a modified Phase 1 of reopening, which allows some additional business activity beyond essential businesses.

Last week, an enhanced statewide order took effect that requires businesses to refuse service to customers who don’t wear facial coverings. That order builds on previous mask requirements issued last month.

Earlier this week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a ban on indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people and a requirement that people wear face coverings outside if they can not socially distance.

And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom once again closed bars, inside dining and, for much of the state, gyms, indoor church services and hair and nail salons.

More than 44,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Washington state and about 1,400 have died.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

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