Gov. Jay Inslee warned Thursday (July 16) that he could reimpose a stay home order in the near future if an alarmingly fast spread of the virus is not halted.
Inslee said he “cannot rule out another stay home order this year… maybe the not too distant future” if each of us do not adhere to rules to wear a mask, maintain physical distance and limit our contacts.
On the same day the state recorded another substantial increase in new coronavirus cases, Inslee ordered a reduction of the size of social gatherings allowed in counties in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. Starting July 20, no more than 10 people can be at a social gathering, down from 50. Spiritual services, weddings and funerals are exempt from this change.
Inslee left intact the five-person maximum in counties in Phase 2.
Inslee also announced a ban on live entertainment, indoor and outdoor, for counties in the third phase of reopening. The change, which also starts July 20, will affect 17 counties that have reached that phases.
Inslee’s new guidance on social gatherings mirrors a recommendation in a report of the White House coronavirus task force obtained and published by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news nonprofit.
To combat a surge in the positivity rate, the White House task force also alls for continuing the governor’s statewide mask mandate and reducing social gatherings.
Inslee’s moves come amid a significant surge in the spread of the virus which health experts say is a result of large social interactions. Many involve young people, who now account for the largest bloc of new cases.
While they may become infected and show little signs of illness, Inslee said, they can spread to older friends and relatives. Now, he said, a birthday party or a barbecue can be dangerous, even deadly.
“Somehow we really need folks in this age group to help us,” he said. “We are simply seeing behavior that is too risky. I am seeing it. It’s very troubling to me.”
Inslee said if the trends continue, he could soon reimpose restrictions on bars and restaurants as well as bowling alleys and other recreational activities.
The governor sounded a similar alarm Tuesday when he put the brakes on any further reopening of the state by barring any county from advancing in his four-stage approach until July 28.
Statewide, as of July 16, there have been 44,313 coronavirus cases recorded since late January and 1,427 deaths. In King County, the tally of confirmed cases had reached 12,592 as of last week, including 621 fatalities.
Secretary of Health John Wiesman said the state is starting to see the impact of the 4th of July weekend, as well as other social gatherings, including birthday parties and cocktail parties.
“The bottom line is our attention to this can’t be a part-time job,” he said. “Every interaction we have, we have to think about doing it safely.”
Herald writer Joseph Thompson contributed to the report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.