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Gov. Jay Inslee Extends Washington’s Indoor Dining Ban Until January 11

Inslee also said a plan on reopening businesses safely would be announced next week

A sign outside a restaurant that reads “Sorry, due to COVID-19 we are closed”
The mandate on Washington dining room closures was due to expire January 4.

Those hoping for reopened dining rooms in Seattle will have to wait another week, at least. On December 30, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the current indoor dining ban for restaurants and bars due to the pandemic would be extended until January 11 (the mandate was due to expire January 4). Takeout and limited outdoor seating are still allowed, and the governor’s office said that an updated reopening plan for businesses would be released next week. No new restrictions were announced.

“Our consistent mission has been keeping Washingtonians safe and ensuring health care system and hospital capacity,” Inslee said in a statement. “We understand the profound impact COVID is having on our healthcare system, families and businesses, but I am heartened by the number of Washingtonians who continue to do the right thing. If we continue distancing from others, wearing facial coverings and avoiding social gatherings, we will make it to the other side of this pandemic together.”

This is the second time Inslee has extended the indoor dining ban, which was first reimplemented in mid-November after months of loosening restrictions. In December, the governor kept the mandate in place throughout the holidays and hinted that it would be “possible to recalibrate” if COVID transmission data improved. But, even though cases have flattened in general across Washington since an alarming spike in November, local health officials say the state is “still in a precarious position.” To date, there have been 246,000 cases of COVID in Washington and 3,433 deaths.

The new move may be disappointing to restaurants that were gearing up for a return to some indoor dining service the first week of January, but the fact that Inslee extended the ban by only seven days and indicated that there would be a plan forthcoming for reopening businesses are signs that restrictions may ease up sooner rather than later.