Changes To The Safe Start Plan

Governor puts additional restrictions related to weddings and funerals, restaurants, bars, and fitness and entertainment centers in his July 23rd announcement. This came on the heels of people’s disappointment due to an announcement made by Governor Inslee on July 2nd, putting a pause on phase advancement for all Washington counties. 

An increase in new positive cases of COVID-19 has halted the Phases of the Safe Start Plan. This comes as an effort to avoid a repeat of the measures that took place back in the spring. “We must redouble our efforts to keep our physical distance, wear our face coverings and limit the number of people we see each week”, Secretary of Health, John Wiesman said. The governor’s office announced new restrictions on July 23rd regarding masks, gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and on restaurants, bars, fitness and entertainment centers. Additionally, the eviction moratorium has been extended to October 15th. 

June 23rd Announcement Changes Effective Dates

  • July 25 – Mask Requirements
  • July 30th – Restaurants, Bars, Fitness and Entertainment Centers
  • August 6th – Weddings and Funerals

Masks

Face coverings are now required in all common spaces including hallways and elevators, and in shared spaces such as apartment buildings, universities, hotels, and nursing homes. This is in addition to face mask orders that were extended in Inslee’s July 2nd announcement. Orders of this nature must be updated every 30 days to stay enacted. 

Weddings and Funerals

For all phases, ceremonies will continue to be permitted, and must stick to current guidelines, along with a maximum indoor occupancy of 20% or up to 30 people, as long as 6ft of physical distancing takes place. All receptions will be prohibited. 

Restaurants 

Indoor dining will be limited to household members, with a reduced table size of 5 people and a total occupancy limit of 50% rather than 75% in Phase 3. Dining outdoors and take-out will still be an option for people from different households. Game and social areas must be closed, and restaurants are not able to sell alcohol inside past 10pm. 

Bars

Bars must close indoor service but will be able to continue serving outdoors.

Fitness and Entertainment Centers

The term “Fitness Centers” refers to gyms, studios, pools, and sports facilities. In Phase 2, indoor fitness services must be limited to 5 people not including staff. Indoor family entertainment and recreation centers are prohibited from opening. During Phase 3, the total occupancy of these establishments will be limited to 25%. 

Why There’s A Pause on Phases
The Washington State Department of Commerce reported that from June 8 to July 8, the rate of newly-diagnosed cases per 100,000 residents nearly doubled, as the rate increased from 56.8 to 111.9. The state goal is under 25. Due to this dramatic increase, Spokane County will remain in Phase 2, with Stevens County in Phase 3. To view more on provisions for each Phase, visit: Dpgazette.com/2020/05/return-to-normal/

Although Washington’s testing is increasing, the rate of new cases has exceeded that advancement. The governor’s office has stated that physical distancing, and wearing a face covering are two of the leading methods in preventing the spread of the virus. A California University article talks about how face coverings act as an effective barrier that protects others against exhaled droplets from the nose and mouth of the wearer. Many sources including the CDC talk about how N95 masks have been found to protect the wearer more so than others, as inhalation is filtered but exhalation is not. An increase in testing allows for more comprehensive data like this that leads to development of enhanced safety measures.

When Can We Move Forward?

Until a few benchmarks are met, such as the percentage of individuals testing positive remaining less than 2%, phases will stay paused and a mask mandate will be firm. For more information, view the Covid-19 Risk Assessment Dashboard, updated daily at Coronavirus.wa.gov.

Sources:

DPGazette.com/nslee7220

Accessed 7.21.20, info for halt in phases/extension of mask requirement

DPGazette.com/nsleevideo71620

Accessed 7.21.20, info about exhaled droplets/masks as protective barrier

DPGazette.com/riskassessment

Accessed 7.21.20, Risk Assessment Dashboard

DPGazette.com/cdcppe

Accessed 7.21.20, N95 info

DPGazette.com/insleerollback

Accessed July 24 2020

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