Restricted dining, rent moratorium among new Covid-19 restrictions

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Governor Jay Inslee announced an indefinite pause on counties advancing in the state’s Safe Start phased reopening plan on July 28. This follows new changes that he introduced to the plan during a June 23 press conference, including dining restrictions and a new rent moratorium.

Starting July 30, indoor dining will be limited to household members, alcohol sales must end at 10 p.m., restaurants must close game areas, and bars will close indoor service. The mandate defines bars as taverns, breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Breweries and wineries with restaurant licenses can continue restaurant operations if they follow guidelines for dine-in restaurants.

Gyms and fitness centers in phase 2 will be limited to five people or fewer. Whatcom County is in phase 2.

For counties in phase 3, restaurant table size will be reduced to a maximum of five people and total occupancy will be limited to 50 percent of building capacity. Indoor movie theatres and fitness centers in phase 3 will be limited to 25 percent occupancy. This includes gyms, indoor pools, ice rinks, indoor volleyball courts and indoor tennis facilities, Inslee said.

There will also be a prohibition on indoor family entertainment and recreation centers like mini golf, bowling alleys and arcades.

Indoor movie theatre occupancy will be limited to 25 percent for counties in phase 3 and indoor cardrooms will be prohibited.

Starting Monday, August 10, wedding, funeral ceremonies planned before the memorandum can continue but receptions will be prohibited.

Indoor occupancy at these events must be 20 percent capacity or 30 people or fewer, whichever is less. A maximum of 30 people is allowed at outdoor ceremonies. If an event was planned after the memorandum, the new guidelines will go into effect July 30.

Inslee said his efforts to constrain the virus aren’t attempts to punish businesses.

“The only effective tool against this pandemic are to change some of our practices,” he said in the July 23 news conference.

State secretary of health John Wiesman also expanded his statewide face covering order to require people to wear face coverings in common spaces where contact with others is likely. On July 25, masks became required in spaces like elevators and hallways in apartment buildings, university housing, hotels and nursing homes.

“We’ve had success in flattening the curve but we knew when we began this reopening process that we would have to accept and make changes as the facts dictated,” Inslee said.

Inslee also announced the statewide eviction moratorium will be extended from August 1 until October 15.

As of July 27, Whatcom County had 871 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 38 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health.

Washington state had 54,205 confirmed cases and 1,548 deaths.

This article, originally published on July 27, has been updated to include information that appeared in the July 30 print issue of The Northern Light. 

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