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Changes to restaurant, bar, wedding and mask wearing requirements announced

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee during a televised press conference (July 23, 2020). Source: TVW

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee Inslee and Health Secretary John Wiesman held a press conference today, July 23rd, to announce proposed updates to the state’s Safe Start plan intended to reduce the risks of people gathering with others outside their household.

Today’s announcement accompanied the report of 50,000 having tested positive for the COVID-19 disease in the state since testing began earlier this year.

Updates announced included the following:

  • Bars
    Beginning next Thursday, July 30th, bars are to discontinue providing indoor service. Gaming areas such as pool tables or video games must be closed.
  • Restaurants
    Alcohol service is to be discontinues at 10pm. Only people from the same household can sit together for indoor dining at restaurants. Capacity is to continue to be reduced to 50% with maximum table sizes of 5 people.
  • Indoor fitness
    Activities will be limited to no more than 5 individuals in Phase 2 counties (such as Whatcom County currently is). Fitness centers in Phase 3 counties are reduced to 25% capacity and no more than 10 individuals for group fitness classes.
  • Indoor wedding and funeral ceremonies
    Beginning August 6th, ceremonies will be limited to 20% of building capacity or 30 people, whichever is less. Receptions will not be allowed.
  • Indoor family entertainment and recreation centers
    Closed until the county enters Phase 4. This includes bowling alleys, arcades, etc.
  • Indoor card rooms
    Closed until Phase 4
  • Indoor movie theaters
    Allowed in Phase 3 at 25% occupancy
  • Statewide face covering order
    Beginning Saturday, July 25th, the order will be expanded to include any shared spaces, such as hotel, condo or apartment hallways and elevators, dormitory spaces, etc.

The governor also announced an extension of the statewide eviction moratorium to October 15th.

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Whatcom County Health Department officials announced today, July 23rd, the drive-through testing facility collected specimens from more than 1,800 people on July 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th. Officials said the high volume indicated the importance of providing this type of low-barrier service for local residents in the future. But the pilot program proved unsustainable.

The pilot project revealed that personnel resources required for drive-through testing at this scale and without pre-registration make it unsustainable. The staff, volunteer, and financial commitment for this testing site was extensive; WUC and WCHD are unable to maintain this commitment moving forward. The four days of the testing cost approximately $126,000 and depended on over 50 volunteers each day.Whatcom County Health Department press release – July 23, 2020

Today’s announcement from the County Health Department confirmed drive-through testing would not be provided this weekend. Instead, alternative approaches to provide a more efficient testing process for the community will be explored.

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