After a week of increasingly dire warnings from public health officials about a surge of coronavirus cases, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the most sweeping restrictions on daily life in Washington since the original stay-at-home order in March.
As of Nov. 16, indoor social gatherings with people outside of the household are prohibited, and outdoor gatherings are limited to five people outside of the household. In-store retailers are restricted to 25% occupancy, and while personal services like haircuts are not shut down, they are also limited to 25% occupancy — down from 50% prior to the lockdown. As of Nov. 18, restaurants may no longer serve people indoors, although takeout and limited outdoor dining is still allowed.
The restrictions are expected to last at least four weeks.
The new crackdown is meant to slow the spread of the virus, which is raging through the nation. Conditions are materially worse than during the March stay-at-home order, Inslee noted.
The prohibitions on gathering come right before the Thanksgiving holiday, an event that had public health officials sounding the alarms.
Canada showed a significant spike in coronavirus cases after its Thanksgiving holiday, which is celebrated at the beginning of October. Such gatherings with family and friends from outside the immediate household — often indoors and lasting hours — are easy places for the coronavirus to spread, according to health officials.
Cases were rising steadily since September, but the largest increases happened at the end of October and early November, according to state health officer Kathy Lofy at a Nov. 10 press conference. It’s likely that the total number of cases is a significant undercount.
A study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society showed that COVID-19 had an in-hospital death rate two times higher than that of patients suffering from the regular flu. According to the study, the higher death rate was separate from other factors such as age, gender, other health conditions and the severity of illness while in the intensive care unit.
The finding shows that despite previous messaging from the White House and other government sources, coronavirus is not the average “seasonal flu.”
“With rising cases of COVID-19 and the flu season, it is possible that we may see spikes in hospitalizations and ICU admissions that could overwhelm our healthcare system,” according to Natalie Cobb, a pulmonary and critical care medicine physician with UW Medicine, in a press release.
Doctors recommend that people who are able should get their annual flu shot, continue social distancing and wear masks to prevent the continued spread of the virus.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more of the Nov. 18-24, 2020 issue.