Washington has seen more than 127,000 known Covid-19 cases and over 2,500 deaths since January, when the first known U.S. case of the disease was reported in Snohomish County.
The state Department of Health reported 2,286 new Covid-19 cases on Friday — the highest number on record for Washington.
That number is double what it was two weeks ago, indicating that community transmission — or transmission in which infections can't be linked back to a known case — is up again.
Moreover, the number of Covid-19 hospital patients increased by 40% in the week between November 6 and November 13, according to state health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. Officials have repeatedly outlined concerns about hospitals becoming overwhelmed as a third Covid-19 wave takes hold.
"We are today in a more dangerous position than we were in March when our first stay-home order was issued," Inslee said during a Sunday press conference. "In March, we were heading into the summer months. And we were largely successful relative to other states because of the combination that we acted early we did not wait," he added.
But as people have started moving their social activities indoors to avoid the cold, the risk of spreading the coronavirus has increased.
The new restrictions, which take effect starting Tuesday (unless otherwise noted) and last through December 14, include the following:
- No indoor bar or restaurant services, starting Wednesday. Outdoor dining and to-go service is still allowed.
- No indoor services permitted at movie theaters, museums, zoos, and aquariums.
- No indoor gatherings with people from outside of one's household.
- 25% indoor capacity for all retailers, including grocery stories, and for religious, personal, and professional services.
- No wedding or funeral receptions; ceremonies are limited to 30 people or less.
- Outdoor social gatherings limited to 5 people from outside of one's household.
- Outdoor visits only for long term care facilities.
The restrictions announced on Sunday do not impact childcare facilities, K-12 schools, or colleges — they are still subject to current state guidance specific to reopening schools. Additionally, courts are exempt from the new rules.
Inslee said that he would commit $50 million in coronavirus relief for impacted businesses, in the form of grants and loans. He also said that residents should rest assured that "unemployment insurance benefits will not run out" for the four weeks that the restrictions are to remain in place.
However, the timeline for the restrictions is subject to change, pending a review of Covid-19 data at the end of those four weeks, Inslee said.
Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins contributed reporting.