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Inslee Says Return of Certain Restrictions a ‘Possibility’ If COVID-19 Cases Continue Rise

The governor also extended the pause in advancing to further “Safe Start” phases for counties until July 28

Pedestrians on a downtown Seattle street stroll through a crosswalk wearing masks
COVID-19 cases in King County has risen in recent weeks, prompting concerns that certain restrictions would need to be re-imposed.
Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the continued rise in COVID-19 cases and other metrics of the disease in Washington continues to be a concern, and that re-imposing restrictions during the state’s “Safe Start” plan is on the table.

Inslee said that there were early signs that the state’s mandatory mask policy was helping and starting to drive down cases in counties like Yakima. However, the overall metrics on the spread of COVID-19 in the state aren’t where officials wanted them, particularly a rise in cases among people in their 20s, and the current trends point to a worsening problem. If things don’t improve soon, he cautioned it’s a “possibility” that certain reopenings could be rolled back. “The situation we are in is unsustainable,” he said.

Seattle is currently in phase two of the state’s “Safe Start” reopening plan, where restaurants and bars are allowed to seat diners at 50 percent capacity. Originally, the idea was to reevaluate the status of the coronavirus spread every few weeks, and possibly advance to a less restrictive phase, if cases declined or other COVID-19 numbers were below a certain level. But there’s currently a pause on advancing to phases statewide, and Inslee said that no counties would advance to any subsequent opening phases until at least July 28.

Inslee didn’t announce any restrictions that would be reapplied Tuesday. However, he referenced rollbacks in other states, such as Texas, Arizona, and Florida, as something that could possibly happen in Washington, if further COVID-19 spread continues and action isn’t taken. He also specifically mentioned bars and indoor seating in restaurants as a couple of restrictions that could be re-implemented, if the need arises.

On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom completely shut down bars and indoor dining rooms due to concerns over COVID-19, and similar businesses restrictions have been put in place again across the country. But Inslee pointed out that the “battle will be won or lost” in the community (such as wearing masks, social distancing, and being cognizant of personal gatherings), not just in restaurants, bars, and other areas of commerce.