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Inslee Indicates Stay at Home Order Could Be Extended, Which Would Likely Prolong Dining Room Closures

Restaurants may be in for an even longer haul

A view of the Seattle skyline and the Space Needle from the water on a cloudy day
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said some restrictions seem to be working in slowing the COVID-19 spread, but the fight is far from over.

In a televised press conference Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said that the state’s current stay at home order may be extended beyond the next two weeks to continue fighting COVID-19 spread in the state. “We simply cannot allow this virus to be slowed and then spring back upon us,” he said. The governor cited some modest improvement in slowing the increase in novel coronavirus cases overall in hard-hit areas, such as King County, but cautioned “we have not turned the corner.” To date, Washington has 3,207 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and 147 related deaths.

While there was no mention of the immediate future of restaurants during Thursday’s press conference, if a stay at home order were to be extended, it could mean a much longer period without dine-in services in Seattle and across the state. The order billed as “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” announced Monday already extended the time period for those closures effectively to April 8, instead of March 31.

For the past couple of weeks, some restaurants have tried to adjust to the new rules that still allow for takeout, drive-thru, and delivery, but it’s unclear how long they would be able to maintain those services with limited resources and a city that continues to be, in essence, shut down, except for essential services.

Just this week, local Korean-Hawaiian restaurant chain Marination decided to close temporarily out of concern for public health and the safety of its workers. Molly Moon’s and Li’l Woody’s also closed for the time being, citing similar reasons for abandoning takeout and delivery services. For those restaurants and others, the risks of possible exposure to COVID-19 by staying open in a limited capacity may seem too great.

Concerns for laid-off workers are paramount, though. Inslee indicated that there’s been an 843 percent increase in new unemployment claims in just the last week, and new claims in the state are five times what they were at the peak of the Great Recession — and many of these claims have been coming from the hospitality industry.

Having a federal stimulus package that extends unemployment benefits could provide a cushion for those out of work, even if it’s too early to know exactly when the aid will come to this region — and how it will help. Regardless, there will be many more difficult decisions to make in the coming days and weeks for restaurants across the city and state.