OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee extended the state's COVID-19 restrictions until Jan. 11.
The restrictions, set in place due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, was set to expire on Jan. 4. That includes a ban on indoor dining and indoor gyms.
Inslee announced the most severe restrictions on activity in mid-November following record-breaking levels of COVID-19 spread in the state. Those rules were set to expire Dec. 14, but that was pushed back through the holidays.
"Our consistent mission has been keeping Washingtonians safe and ensuring health care system and hospital capacity," Inslee said. "We understand the profound impact COVID is having on our healthcare system, families and businesses, but I am heartened by the number of Washingtonians who continue to do the right thing. If we continue distancing from others, wearing facial coverings and avoiding social gatherings, we will make it to the other side of this pandemic together.”
An updated reopening plan is being developed by state leaders "to provide a pathway for businesses and workers impacted by this order to reopen safely." That plan will be released the first full week of January.
But Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, expressed frustration with the extension of the restrictions on Wednesday.
In a statement, he said, "When will main street businesses see a plan from the governor that will pull them back from the brink rather than pushing them over it? When the governor substantially shut down the hospitality industry in November, he indicated cases would level off and we expected to see a detailed path to reopening. Seven weeks later, neither of those things are true. Hospitality operators are falling deeper in the red, hospitality workers remain out of work, businesses are closing, and household bills are going unpaid."
The chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, Caleb Heimlich, echoed a similar sentiment Wednesday evening. Heimlich said he understands the importance of public health but is disappointed in the governor's decision.
"I'd say frustrated," said Heimlich during an interview with KING 5. "Frustrated that we've been in this second or third lockdown since mid-November, the governor's office saying today we're going to extend the lockdown for one more week, and then we'll let you know what the plan is. I think the people of Washington state and small business owners, employees that depend on their places of work to be open, to provide for themselves, to provide for their family, they deserve to know what the plan is, what are the steps, how do we start to get things back open?"
Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah says that while there is "some improvement" with the restrictions in place, the state is "not out of the woods."
"We want to continue to see those numbers come down," said Shah. He also said the week extension gives business owners some certainty of what they can expect after the upcoming holiday weekend. He did not say what might happen after Jan. 11.
State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist thought the current restrictions were helping reduce COVID-19 cases in the state.
"We are at a very precarious position," said Lindquist, "But we're starting to see this downward trend."
Watch the latest update from the Department of Health below.
Since the restrictions were announced, Inslee has issued other proclamations to reduce the spread of COVID-19. That includes a requirement that people traveling from the United Kingdom and South Africa quarantine for 14 days when the arrive in Washington state.