By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
Governor Jay Inslee announced new initiatives in response to recent statewide spikes in the coronavirus, requiring businesses to refuse service to customers not wearing facial coverings, as well as a two-week pause on all counties’ ability to advance into the next phase of his Safe Start Plan.
During a press conference on Thursday, July 2, Gov. Inslee provided an update on Washington’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, announcing that he will be signing a ‘Mask Up- Open Up’ statewide order preventing businesses from serving customers not wearing facial coverings by Tuesday, July 7 unless excused due to health reasons.
Thursday’s announcement arrives in response to recent statewide increases of COVID-19 cases and follows a recent statewide order issued mandating the use of masks in public places.
“We’re taking these additional steps because we need more people to embrace this rule for it to be effective,” said Inslee. “It’s a reasonable expectation for businesses to enforce this law.”
Referring to data on the state’s effective reproduction number (RE), the number of new cases originating from an individual COVID-19 infection, Western Washington’s has gone up. After dropping throughout March and into the first part of April to below one, it has been increasing since May 31, recently hitting a probable infection rate of 1.5. It has also increased in Eastern Washington regions.
“We have a very worrisome increasing infection rate in the state of Washington that is above one,” said Inslee. That means that it’s growing today, essentially in every region throughout the state of Washington.”
“This is not just coincident of more testing, it’s because more people are becoming infected, that is clear” continued Inslee. “It means the pandemic is growing not slowing.”
Inslee attributed the RE number going up in response to Washingtonian’s increased interaction with one another- allowed as counties move through the phases of his Safe Start reopening plan. To mitigate the spread of the virus, he announced a 2-week pause on advancing counties from their current phase.
“Like I said earlier, the rate of infection is increasing in all the regions. This is going to require additional containment steps,” explained Inslee. As we go along, we are going to learn what works and what gives us concern.”
Addressing a current concern of a place with presumable ability to become a center of infection, Inslee then announced that he is removing the allowance of bartop and counter service in Phase 3. Bars will still be permitted to open with Phase 3 with customers serviced at tables.