Inslee, Department of Health issue new orders in response to COVID-19 surge

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Health have issued a number of new orders aimed at stemming the tide of the disease.

To best help the state reduce the spread of the virus, Secretary of Health Jonathan Wiesman said that wearing a face covering every time people are in public is the best way to go about it. The secretary said the state would need 95 percent compliance to beat back the disease.

“That’s why you constantly hear us talking about it,” Wiesman said. “That’s why we extended my order and added to it.”

The most recent action came this week when Inslee announced that the “pause” on counties moving forward into new phases under his “Safe Start” reopening plan would be extended indefinitely. That pause was scheduled to end July 28.

Inslee and the health department also expanded face mask orders, essentially requiring Washingtonians to wear a mask any time they are outside of their home and can’t maintain six feet of distance from non-household members.

Restaurant, bar, wedding and funeral capacities were all curtailed and the eviction moratorium for renters was extended through October. Family entertainment and indoor recreation centers are prohibited from opening.

The Kitsap County Public Health District has added 323 COVID-19 cases this month, more than double all of the confirmed cases from March through June combined. While those numbers do not account for the coinciding ramp up in testing ability, the surge of activity has been more than enough for state officials to issue the new orders.

“We are concerned about the rates at this point still,” Wiesman said during a press briefing Wednesday. “We need to slow the spread. We have to do fewer, shorter and safer outings.”

The face mask expansion took effect July 25, and it now requires residents to wear coverings in any common space outside of the home, including elevators, shared hallways and spaces in apartment buildings, university housing, hotels, and other congregate settings, such as nursing homes. Face masks are required in all indoor settings, not just public buildings.

Restaurants must now limit indoor dining to only household members at a given table and reduce capacity to five people per table. Bar service indoors has closed as well, and all alcohol sales must end by 10 p.m. Wiesman said the latter measure is intended to reduce the number of interactions people have with one another. That took effect July 30.

Gyms and fitness centers in Phase 2 continue to be limited to five people, not including staff.

On Aug. 6, wedding and funerals will be limited to either 20 percent capacity or 30 people, whichever is less. Receptions will be prohibited as well. The Aug. 6 date provides a grace period for any weddings and funerals already scheduled to take place, or to allow for the readjustment of plans.

The news wasn’t all bad Wednesday. Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer, said there have been signs of plateauing on a statewide level in terms of new cases per day, though that number remains high. There has also been a slight decrease in the percentage of positive cases relative to the number of tests.

“We may be seeing a few positive signals in our data; our disease activity remains very high in Washington, and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increases every day,” Lofy said.

Inslee has not ruled out the possibility of another “Stay at Home” order if the data continues to trend in an unfavorable direction.

“Many of the counties are really far from our ideal targets,” Lofy said. “Basically, as a state, we, overall, just have too much disease activity.”

Kitsap County

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Kitsap Public Health District confirmed 12 new positive cases of COVID-19 since Tuesday, bringing the countywide total of positive cases to 581 since March and a positive test rate of just over 3 percent.

A total of 91 cases are considered “active” by the district, meaning they are “confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases … participating in daily monitoring.” Another 303 were categorized as “active contacts” or individuals determined to be close contacts of a lab-confirmed case and are participating in daily monitoring.

A total of four COVID-19 related deaths have also been confirmed by the health district since March. Per the health district, the average age of cases has declined over the past four months from 47 years in March to 40 years in June. The highest increase of cases is in the 20-29 age range, followed by ages 30-39.

To date, 18,503 residents have tested negative for COVID-19. So far, 323 infections have been confirmed by the health district in July.

Of the 581 total cases, 20 have been reported on Bainbridge Island, 196 in Bremerton, 147 in Central Kitsap, 101 in North Kitsap and 117 in South Kitsap.

The age breakdown for confirmed cases per 100,000 is as follows:

0 – 19: 96

20 – 29: 266

30 – 39: 234

40 – 49: 123

50 – 59: 70

60 – 69: 63

70 – 79: 78

80 and older: 74