As confirmed cases of COVID-19 grew Sunday with 127 new patients in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational activities.
The proclamation was made after states and cities nationwide took similar action, including the shut down of Las Vegas casinos and restaurants and bars in New York. The order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
In Washington, restaurants will be allowed to provide takeout and delivery, but no in-person dining will be allowed. Grocery stores and pharmacies can operate as normal, and other retail outlets must limit the number of customers shopping at any given time.
“These are very difficult decisions, but hours count here and very strong measures are necessary to slow the spread of the virus,” Inslee wrote in a statement.
Downtown Spokane was empty on Sunday night – not just the streets, but the restaurants too. The Onion had only a handful of customers, Incrediburger was empty, and many restaurants were simply closed.
An hour after the announcement, Jesse Pyles sat at the bar of his restaurant, Fire Artisan Pizza.
“I have no idea what it means,” Pyles said, noting he had only 10 to 15 customers all night. “I don’t know what the repercussions are.”
Among his biggest worries in the coming weeks is what will happen to his employees, Pyles said.
All Pyles said he can hope for in the coming weeks was “survival.”
Next door at Nudo Ramen House, three customers sat just after closing.
Over the past week customers continued to stop in for lunch, but the pace was definitely slower, the night manager said. Wednesday, the day that the World Health Organization upgraded the outbreak to a pandemic, saw the biggest drop-off in customers.
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said in a statement Sunday night that the closures are “extremely sobering.”
“The best thing we can do for restaurants is to take advantage of the takeout options to help through this difficult time,” Woodward said. “Spokane is resilient and rallies around its neighbors, friends, and loved ones.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tightened its guidelines Sunday to recommend that gatherings of more than 50 people be canceled for the next eight weeks. Those events include weddings, birthday parties or funerals.
Many Spokane restaurants and businesses have been anticipating the possibility of closures for days. Some said it could end their establishments.
“This is devastating and we may not survive,” the Rock City Grill posted on its Facebook page.
At the Onion, owners already had changed hours and began limiting seating capacity to comply with “social distancing” recommendations.
In a Facebook post, Perry Street Brewing said it supported Inslee’s decision, saying it hoped to see customers again when its taps start flowing.
Chad White, who owns Zona Blanca ceviche bar and three other restaurants, said he was working on options to serve customers.
And last week, restaurateur Adam Hegsted told The Spokesman-Review that his catering company, Le Catering, took a $50,000 hit in potential sales amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Hegsted also owns several restaurants under the Eat Food Group, including the Wandering Table, Gilded Unicorn and Yards Bruncheon. He said his establishments experienced a 25% drop in business Thursday.
The Union gym in Spokane decided earlier Sunday to temporarily cancel its workout sessions for two weeks.
“We want to put the health of our athletes, team and overall community at the forefront,” the Union posted on its Facebook page.
The order also hit some of the state’s best-known companies.
REI announced its stores would be closed until at least March 27. Apple announced Saturday it would be closing stores worldwide. Other retailers, including Urban Outfitters, Nike, Free People and Patagonia, closed stores over the past week.
Inslee said more details on regulations in King County, the center of the outbreak in Washington, are expected to come Monday morning.
Most of the new cases were reported Sunday by the state Department of Health as unassigned to a county. Spokane County’s total number of confirmed cases remained at three following Saturday’s announcement by health officials of its first positive test result, but officials also said unassigned cases could be linked to Spokane.
There are a total of 104 unassigned cases. There were 39 unassigned cases reported on Saturday.
Two new deaths were announced Sunday, both from the elder care center in Kirkland that has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus.
King County reported 32 new cases Sunday.
The deaths were a woman in her 60s who died at Franciscan Medical on Saturday and a woman in her 70s who died Thursday.
The new cases bring the total confirmed cases in King County to 420, with 37 deaths. The statewide total grew Sunday from 642 to 769, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Those additional cases included 22 new confirmed cases and 10 probable cases in Snohomish County, three new cases in Pierce County, one new case in Whatcom County, and Lincoln County with its first case. Positive tests have been returned in 17 of Washington’s 39 counties, according to the Health Department.
Most of the tests being administered to Washington residents are coming back negative. According to the Health Department, 9,451 tests have returned negative in the state, compared to the 769 positive cases.
The Spokane Regional Health District expects to see more confirmed cases as testing becomes more widespread.
Five confirmed cases had been reported in Idaho as of Sunday evening. Nationwide, there are 3,499 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Washington Post. Sixty-six people have died.