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caption: Gov. Jay Inslee announces a ban on large events and gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
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Gov. Jay Inslee announces a ban on large events and gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
Credit: King County TV

Restaurants, bars, fitness studios to close in WA, and events capped at 50 due to COVID-19

Gov. Jay Inslee plans to sign an executive order Monday that will extend mandatory social distancing measures to certain hospitality and entertainment businesses across Washington state. Additionally, the governor is banning all events larger than 50 attendees.

The action comes in the wake of several other states enacting similar orders.

"Tomorrow, we will temporarily shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment/recreational facilities statewide," the governor said in a tweet Sunday evening.

The temporary ban will suspend sit-down services at restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues for at least two weeks. Additionally, businesses including beauty salons, tattoo parlors, theaters, gyms, and museums are also subject to the order. Takeout and delivery services will still be permitted.

The new order will not impede the daily operations of grocery stores and pharmacies. It does, however, direct other retailers to limit their occupancy and implement social distancing plans.

“These are very difficult decisions, but hours count here and very strong measures are necessary to slow the spread of the virus," Inslee said in a press release. "I know there will be significant economic impacts to all our communities and we are looking at steps to help address those challenges."

It's not presently clear how officials plan to respond to the economic fallout of the order. But Inslee said he hoped to have information to share in the coming days.

The governor also announced a moratorium on all events consisting of over 50 attendees, mirroring new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The restrictions also extend to smaller events unless they meet officials' criteria for social distancing and public health.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has enacted a similar local health order, mirroring the governor's new measures.

"It is time right now for people to assume that they and everyone they meet has been exposed, potentially, to avoid any unnecessary interactions that might lead to further infection," Constantine said during a Monday morning press conference.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping at least six feet between individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The agency also advises that older adults or those with underlying health conditions especially avoid large crowds.

"The outbreak is likely to go for months and whatever we do today, we wouldn't expect to see that impact for at least a month," said King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin.

He added that while officials might not immediately know how effective social distancing strategies in Washington state have been, similar actions have benefited other communities during infectious disease outbreaks.

Inslee previously enacted a statewide ban on all events exceeding 250 attendees on Friday, in addition to ordering the closure of all K-12 schools and higher education institutions for six weeks.

READ: All Washington state schools ordered to close for 6 weeks because of coronavirus

There are currently 42 COVID-19 deaths and 769 cases reported across Washington, according to the state department of health. The majority of those cases have affected residents of King and Snohomish counties.