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Inslee Announces That Restaurants and Bars Must Close Dining Rooms Again

Takeout and limited outdoor seating are still allowed; the order will be in effect through at least December 14

Gov. Jay Inslee makes an announcement at a press conference in a leather chair while wearing a face mask.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on businesses in Washington Sunday.

On Sunday, November 15, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on businesses and personal gatherings to try to mitigate the alarming recent spike of recent COVID-19 cases in Washington. Restaurants and bars must close again for indoor dining, officially beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Takeout service and outdoor dining with limitations — no more than five people per table and adhering to current guidelines on capacity — are still permitted. The order goes into effect through December 14.

“Today is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said, noting that average daily COVID cases across Washington have doubled in the last two weeks, and continue to rise exponentially. “Left unchecked, we will see continued untold numbers of deaths … inaction is not an option.”

Inslee’s announcement was not entirely unexpected. He and his wife Trudi discussed new concerns about the pandemic in a public address Thursday, urging all Washingtonians to cancel holiday gatherings through the end of the year. That speech came shortly after local health officials warned of the recent rise in transmission of COVID-19. In King County alone, there has been an average of more than 400 cases a day and hospitalizations have increased dramatically over the past week.

Nine months into a pandemic, restaurants and bars in Washington have been in this spot before, but no doubt the rollbacks will have a significant impact. Inslee addressed the economic toll COVID measures have taken, and committed an additional $50 million to help businesses and workers with a combination of grants and loans, although details weren’t revealed yet. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also joined the press conference Sunday and said that a new small business relief package would be on the way with direct financial aid to small businesses in the city. There may also be some new rules to allow more flexibility for outdoor dining announced soon.

“This virus is unrelenting, and our efforts to beat it must be just as unrelenting,” said Durkan. “Please, show some love for your local businesses. Go buy from your local restaurants and local shops.”