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To-Go Box May Be Symbol of ‘Our Resilience,’ Says King County Executive

City and state officials discuss new order to shut down restaurants and bars in an attempt to stem COVID-19 outbreak

A compostable to-go box.
Seattle restaurants will be allowed to continue only with delivery, takeout, and drive-thru service for the next two weeks.

On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, King County executive Dow Constantine, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, and others held a press conference to go over the new statewide order to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. As previously announced, all restaurants and bars across Washington will need to close for dine-in service through at least March 31, but delivery, takeout, and drive-thru will still be allowed. Constantine said, “Perhaps our resilience is going to be represented by the takeout box.”

No further restrictions were revealed, although the order was clarified to apply to wine and beer taprooms, doughnut shops, and coffee shops. While the order will be in effect for two weeks, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health, emphasized that the outbreak in the area could last “for months” and that it would be difficult to determine on March 31 precisely the impact these measures have been in stemming the coronavirus spread. “I think we’ll be primarily reevaluating to logistical issues associated with the implementation and seeing how we can do better, if we can do better,” says Duchin.

Inslee was asked about ways to support workers displaced by the new order and the economic impact the coronavirus has had in general. He said that “paid sick and family leave policies would be strictly enforced,” first and foremost. And while there are existing mechanisms to help the unemployed, Inslee hoped the federal government might allow pandemics to be considered on the same level as natural disasters, which he said could logistically open up more unemployment compensations. He also said he wouldn’t be opposed to universal basic income at the federal level to address the crisis. When asked about rent deferment for certain individuals and businesses (something that could help local restaurants weather the storm), Inslee would only reveal that they are exploring various options that would be announced soon. “We are going to look for every creative solution, we can find,” Inslee said.

As for how the state would enforce the new regulations, Inslee said that there could be injunctions that Washington could seek out if there was “willful, conscious disregard” for the order, but believed the “vast majority would respond” to help protect themselves and their loved ones.