SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced he will sign an emergency proclamation to temporarily shut down bars and restaurants and further limit the size of gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.
Restaurants will be allowed to have take-out and delivery services, but no in-person dining.
The ban will be in effect through March 31 and applies to restaurants, bars, dance halls, clubs, theaters, health and fitness clubs. Other banned establishments include salons, tattoo parlors and youth sports.
"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. All of us have to recognize in the next several weeks that normal is not part of our game plan," Inslee said at a Monday morning press conference.
"If we are living a normal life right now, we are not doing our job as Washingtonians. It’s much much too dangerous," he said.
Jeff Duchin, the health officer at Public Health - Seattle and King County, said limiting close contact is the "most important way to decrease the spread of COVID-19."
"We expect the cases to double every five to seven days, unless we take action to reduce community spread," he said.
Crowds are now limited to 50 people, a decrease from Inslee's initial ban of gatherings of 250 or more. Fifty is the recommended crowd size number from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Grocery stores, banks, retailers and pharmacies can remain open as long as they meet public health directives.
“We are at a critical moment in this crisis. We are leaving the phase of COVID-19 outbreaks in concentrated areas of the county, and entering the phase of potentially rapid and widespread infection,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a prepared statement ahead of the press conference.
In remarks made Monday morning, Constantine encouraged residents to keep patronizing local restaurants and businesses at a safe distance, and to help arts and other nonprofit organizations that have had to cancel events that they relied on for income.
"If you plan on donating to an arts organization this year, do it now," Constantine said. If an event is canceled "please don’t ask for a refund if you can afford it. Consider your ticket a contribution to a worthy cause."
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