Too many of us still refuse to take a deadly respiratory virus seriously. As Gov. Inslee pointed out late last week, Covid cases have doubled over the past two weeks.
As Gov. Inslee pointed out late last week, average daily COVID-19 cases have doubled over the past two weeks.

Because too many of us continue to behave as if a highly contagious, deadly respiratory virus isn't spreading like wildfire across the country and across our state, on Sunday Governor Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on social life and business operations.

"Today is the most dangerous public health day in over 100 years in our state's history," Inslee said in a press conference. "It is troublesome, but I must report we have a pandemic raging across our state."

And what's worse, this third COVID-19 wave is "trending to be more dangerous than any we've seen before," he added.

This is you, Seattle.
This is you, Seattle. According to Mayor Jenny Durkan: "Nearly 20% of total cases are just from the last two weeks. I'll say that again: one out of every five cases of Covid from this seven-month period is just from the last two weeks."

"Left unchecked," he continued, "it will assuredly result in grossly over-burdened hospitals. It will keep people from receiving routine but necessary treatment because of the stress our hospitals will be under."

Washington state health director Dr. Kathy Lofy said if cases keep doubling "we’ll be seeing over 4,000 cases per day." I'm remembering back in May, when even 250 cases per day were cause for concern.

A very tired nurse named Clint Wallace said health care workers as a whole are “exhausted” and close to being “burnt out.”

Dr. George Diaz, infectious disease chief at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, said Snohomish County has been seeing "a rapid rise in hospitalization" and warned of ICU beds filling up.

A full economic recovery will also continue to evade us if we don't get the pandemic under control, Inslee stressed.

To that end, we've got some new restrictions, which will "hopefully" be in place only for a month. To tick off a few big ones:

1) No indoor gatherings with people from outside your household, which the state defines as "individuals residing in the same domicile." 2) If you want to plan a socially distant polar picnic with your friends in the park for the 'gram, you're limited to five people. 3) Gyms, movie theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums, and bowling alleys are all closed. 4) We're putting the kibosh on indoor service at restaurants, but we're still doing takeout. The state will permit outdoor dining, but parties must be five or fewer. 4) All "in-store retail," including grocery stores, will be limited to 25% capacity. Interesting note on that: Inslee said grocery stores are currently "limited to 30% capacity," so going down to 25% capacity shouldn't be too big of a deal. But local grocery stores get pretty full.

The restrictions on restaurants will go into effect on Wednesday, but the rest will go into effect starting Monday at midnight, i.e. after you turn into a pumpkin tomorrow night. Here's the full list:

• Indoor social gatherings with people from outside your household are prohibited.

• Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to 5 people from outside your household. 

• Restaurants and bars are closed for indoor service. Outdoor dining and to-go service is permitted. Outdoor dining must follow the outdoor dining restriction. Table size limited to 5 for outdoor dining. These restaurant restrictions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, November 18.

• Fitness facilities and gyms are closed for indoor operations. Outdoor fitness classes may still occur but they are limited by the outdoor gathering restriction listed above. Drop off childcare closed.

• Bowling Centers are closed for indoor service.

• Miscellaneous Venues: All retail activities and business meetings are prohibited. Only professional training and testing that cannot be performed remotely is allowed. Occupancy in each meeting room is limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

• Movie Theaters are closed for indoor service. Drive-in movie theaters are still permitted and must follow the current drive-in movie theater guidance.

• Museums/Zoos/Aquariums are closed for indoor service.

• Real Estate open houses are prohibited.

• Wedding and Funerals receptions are prohibited. Ceremonies are limited to no more than 30 people.

• In-store retail limited to 25% indoor occupancy and must close any common/congregate non-food related seating areas. Food court indoor seating is closed.

• Religious services limited to 25% indoor occupancy no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer. No choir, band, or ensemble shall perform during the service. Soloists are permitted to perform. Facial coverings must be worn at all times by congregation members and no congregational singing.

• Professional Services are required to mandate that employees work from home when possible, and to close offices to the public. If they remain open, occupancy is restricted to 25%.

• Personal services are limited to 25% of maximum occupancy.

• Long-term Care Facilities outdoor visits only. Exceptions can be made for essential support person and end-of-life care.

• Youth (school and non-school) and adult sporting activities limited to outdoor only for intrateam practices, masks required for athletes.

• A household is defined as the individuals residing in the same domicile.

Why these restrictions? Because outbreaks keep happening in these industries.
Why these restrictions? Because outbreaks keep happening in these industries. DOH

The Seattle Times published most of this news yesterday after getting ahold of an email the state restaurant lobby sent to its members.

"We realize the occupancy limits are extremely frustrating as we move into the busiest season of the year," wrote Washington Food Industry Association President and CEO Tammie Hetrick. "WFIA asked to increase the capacity amount, but the Governor is following other state that have developed similar guidance."

Hetrick then spun the data, saying, "1% of COVID-19 cases in Washington State occur at workplaces, with 0.06% occurring in grocery and convenience stores. This shows that we have the right process in protecting both customers and employees."

Dr. Lofy said the current data on restaurants basically only tracks staff who caught the bug on the job. Public health officials, she continued, "don't really have the ability to understand how many people are infected in these restaurant outbreaks" because they haven't set up their data systems to link one infected person to another based on the restaurants they've patronized.

The governor acknowledged most non-hospital cases originate from indoor gatherings, but he said the need to "identify every single environment where this transmission can take place" and then "close every window" to further transmission warranted new restrictions on businesses. "If you wait until there's gurneys stacked up in the halls, it’s just too late," he added.

For this new round of restrictions, Inslee said he targeted businesses where people need to take off masks for certain periods of time, such as gyms and restaurants, which he believes will give us "a reasonable chance of reducing this [transmission] rate." He added that he'll be watching the construction industry "very closely in the next several weeks," and encouraged construction workers to comply with protocols.

The state will commit $50 million in new "grants and loans" to help struggling businesses, Inslee said, an amount that he acknowledged "wasn't enough." Look for more details on that in the coming weeks.

The governor said he had no plans to call for a special session to scrape up some more state-level COVID-19 relief funds, as Republican House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox requested again on Twitter Saturday night, but he said he was open to it. "We don’t print money like D.C.," Inslee added. "People who do want to do this—we need them to figure out how to finance this. And that sometimes is a challenge." The last Republican coronavirus plan included nothing but dumb tax deferrals and nonsense.

Had the Republican Senate and the bad President passed another stimulus bill, of course, we could have avoided a lot of the coming pain. But they didn't, so we won't.

Speaking of how bad the situation has become in Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan noted that "one out of every five cases of Covid from this seven-month period is just from the last two weeks," and said her office will rollout a (likely small) small business relief package soon, including more solutions for outdoor dining. She encouraged people to shop local safely—takeout, curbside delivery, etc. But don't hoard!