COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

State reps talk COVID restrictions in the valley

After new statewide restrictions on gatherings and businesses were announced on Nov. 15 in an attempt to curb rapidly rising coronavirus infections, elected officials met with valley business leaders to discuss them.

State and local representatives met with residents during a SnoValley Chamber of Commerce Meeting. All three 5th Legislative District legislators attended as well as King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert.

State Sen. Mark Mullet said the announcements were hard for many business owners who were able to stabilize over the last several months. They’re hoping to avoid a repeat of what happened in the spring, when businesses were shut down and restricted rapidly. He said state representatives were meeting Nov. 20 to figure out how to proceed.

One of his top goals is to get a commitment from the governor’s office to give businesses forewarning before either lifting or extending the restrictions, which have reduced the number of in-person customers at businesses to 25% of their capacity. The restrictions are set to expire on Dec. 14, and Mullet wants the state to provide clear guidance on whether it will be extending restrictions by Dec. 7.

State Rep. Bill Ramos said he empathizes with business owners while acknowledging something had to be done to curb new cases.

Infections in King County, like the rest of the state, have been skyrocketing in recent weeks. In the two weeks before Nov. 13, there was an average of 443 new cases a day, according to the King County COVID-19 dashboard. Health officials are worried about hospitals being overwhelmed this winter as the coronavirus pandemic merges with flu season.

State Rep. Lisa Callan said with infection rates increasing, and businesses reducing capacity, she’s thinking about the ripple effects. She gave an example of a business owner whose child is attending school online, and wondered how they would find time to tend to a business and education.

But she also said the number of infections cannot be allowed to double every few days. She worried that if the state gets to 3,000 new cases daily, the Dec. 14 deadline on restrictions will be extended. She also said the state has to figure out exactly what is behind the spread, and whether shutting down restaurants and businesses helps.

Lambert said she’s concerned about exhaustion and confusion. As the pandemic has progressed, public health understanding of the virus and directions to residents have changed. She said inconsistency in the state’s message is concerning.

She also wants the governor to reconsider the 25% capacity restriction for small businesses with small stores.

Family gatherings were also curtailed by Gov. Jay Inslee’s restrictions. No gatherings are allowed other than those within the immediate household, with some exceptions for those who quarantining before traveling, and who get tested immediately beforehand.

Gyms and entertainment venues must not host indoor gatherings, and restaurants and bars cannot serve people indoors.

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