Jay Inslee Announces Changes To Business Operations Due To COVID-19; WSU Goes (Mostly) Online

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced additional measures to combat coronavirus on July 23, 2020. CREDIT: TVW
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced additional measures to combat coronavirus on July 23, 2020. CREDIT: TVW

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the coronavirus pandemic continues to greatly affect the state in serious and dangerous ways. In response, during a news conference Thursday, Inslee announced updates to the state’s ongoing response and four-phase reopening plan.

Bars that are currently open will now need to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. And bars in current Phase 2 counties must only have outdoor seating. Weddings will still be allowed, but receptions will be prohibited. Restaurants that are open for indoor seating will only be allowed to seat five members of the same household at each table. That applies only to indoor dining, not outdoors.

Additionally, the current statewide ban on evictions for failure to pay rent will be extended to at least October 15.

SEE ALL UPDATES ANNOUNCED BY GOV. INSLEE ON JULY 23

Inslee and state Health Secretary John Wiesman both said the goal is to avoid getting to a place like Florida has seen over the past several weeks.

They both said people need to have “fewer, shorter, and safer interactions.”

Both Inslee and Wiesman pointed to the situation in other states, particularly Florida, where infection rates have skyrocketed in recent weeks, driven largely by spread in communal interactions and public spaces.

Wiesman noted how important it is to prevent what he called “runaway growth of COVID-19 in our state.”

To that end, Wiesman said he would extend the current statewide masking order to include nearly all public common areas, such as lobbies, elevators, apartment building hallways and other areas where people interact outside their homes. The current statewide masking directive effectively amounts to a “no mask, no service” mandate for businesses. This more precise measure is meant to further drive home the point that wearing masks is an effective way to slow the spread of coronavirus between people.

Wiesman pointed to the work being done in Yakima County to drive home the messaging to “mask up to open up.” Inslee and Wiesman said the county health district there has reported initial observations of 95% of people wearing masks in businesses, and that has helped with the infection rate over several weeks.

WSU Goes Online (Mostly)

Also on Thursday, Washington State University announced a change in plans to what it hoped would be a return to more in-person instruction for the upcoming fall semester.

WSU officials announced what they called disappointing news. The university said in a campus-wide announcement that all undergraduate classes in Pullman would shift to online, with what administrators called “extremely limited exceptions for in-person instructions.”

Plans for graduate-level classes will be announced August 1.

The announcement Thursday said plans are ongoing for what will happen for all other WSU campuses – in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Everett.

The university had previously announced plans for a mix of in-person and online classes for all campuses. But numbers of coronavirus infections in the region, including Pullman and Whitman County, have increased precipitously in recent weeks.

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A sign at the El Sarape restaurant advertises outdoor seating, Jan. 5, 2021, in Olympia, Wash., as indoor dining was prohibited statewide due the the governor's coronavirus safety measures. CREDIT: Ted S. Warren/AP

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