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Freeze on counties reopening in Washington extended indefinitely

Counties across Washington won’t be able to further reopen their economies for the time being while the state tries to dampen coronavirus.

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee indefinitely suspended Tuesday the ability of counties to move on to the next phase of reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Inslee initially paused reopening at the end of June and extended the freeze for another two weeks in mid-July. That pause was set to expire Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, five counties are in modified Phase 1, 17 counties are in Phase 2 and 17 counties are in Phase 3. No counties are in Phase 4.

The move comes as the state rolls back restrictions on restaurants, bars and entertainment venues along with rules for weddings and funerals as coronavirus cases continue to spike.

Beginning Thursday, alcohol can’t be served after 10 p.m. at bars and restaurants, and counties in Phase 3 can’t seat more than five people per table. Restaurant capacity in Phase 3 is reduced to 50%, and bar seating is banned. Indoor card rooms are prohibited, and movie theaters can’t open until Phase 3 when they are allowed to open at 25% capacity.

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Starting August 10, wedding receptions are banned, and wedding ceremonies and funerals are limited to 20% capacity indoors or 30 people, with social distancing.

In a report released Tuesday, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) noted that recent case trends are mixed across counties. Some counties, including King County, appeared to flatten new cases recently, although the department couldn’t rule out a delay in testing as one of the causes. Other counties, including Snohomish and Pierce, are still seeing an upward trend.

On Monday, DOH reported 875 new cases of coronavirus across Washington state.

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