On Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee officially announced that the state’s current stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19 will remain in effect beyond May 4, but did not provide a new target end date. He said that more details about the phased reopening of the economy and easing restrictions will be revealed Friday. It appears likely restaurants and bars need to be closed for dine-in services further out into May, at the very least. Takeout and delivery is still allowed under the current rules.
Inslee has started rolling out a plan to reopen the economy, first by allowing some residential construction previously underway to immediately resume with precautions, then by announcing some of the state’s outdoor recreational activities (like fishing and golf) could start up again May 5. On Wednesday, he said hospitals could resume certain elective procedures under clarified guidelines. But there was no additional clarity on when or how dine-in services may be able to resume. It was hinted from the start of Inslee’s plan that dining rooms would not be part of the early stages of the phased reopening — this latest announcement follows that pattern. Though COVID-19 deaths are on the decline, Inslee cautioned that they could rise again if social distancing measures eased now. To date, there have been 14,070 cases of the novel coronavirus in Washington and 801 deaths.
Some states in the Midwest and South have taken a faster — and controversial — approach to reopen, especially in Georgia, which was among the first to let restaurants serve dine-in customers again. That plan received pushback from many chefs and owners, concerned about the safety and welfare of their workers.
Out West, the governor of Las Vegas has extended its own stay-at-home order beyond April 30, even as casinos plan an elaborate process to reopen. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a phased reopening similar to Washington’s, but said it would be “weeks, not months away, from making meaningful modifications” to the state’s stay-at-home directive.
Whenever dining rooms do open locally, Seattleites should still expect significant changes. As Inslee has mentioned in his plan, physical distancing will be required for all industries, and the state will set guidelines for rigorous cleaning, screening employees for illness, and for employer-provided personal protection equipment.