National News Desk

New restrictions announced in Washington state amid 'third wave' of COVID-19 cases



(OLYMPIA, Wash.) — Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, announced new restrictions Sunday on residents and businesses as the state deals with record-breaking COVID-19 infection rates.

The state is currently undergoing a “third wave” of transmission as average daily cases have doubled in the last two weeks, Inslee told reporters at a news conference. Daily case numbers have surpassed the highs in March, he noted.

On Saturday, Washington state recorded more than 2,286 cases — a record — and the preliminary numbers for Sunday are primed to exceed Saturday’s numbers. Hospitalization rates have risen about 40%, state health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said.

“Inaction is not an option,” Inslee said. “We have to take bold decisive action.”

Starting Monday at 11:59 p.m. local time, indoor social gatherings with people from outside the household are prohibited unless the guests have quarantined for 14 days or they have quarantined for seven days and received a negative test result 48 hours before the event.

Outdoor gatherings should have fewer than five people from outside the household, Washington state officials said.

Indoor dining at restaurants and bars will stop but outdoor dining and takeout remains unchanged. Gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums are closed, and weddings and funeral receptions are prohibited. Ceremonies are limited to 30 people.

Indoor retail is limited to 25% capacity and religious services are limited to 25% capacity or 200 people, whichever number is less. Choir performances are prohibited.

The measures will be in effect until Dec. 14.

“We know these measures can work,” Inslee said. “We’ve shown the country they can work.”

Washington state was the first in the U.S. to experience an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the year.

The new restrictions are in addition to a number of protocols for universities Inslee instituted last month after multiple campuses saw a jump in COVID-19 cases.

Most states are continuing to see sharp rises in infection rates. Friday marked the 10th consecutive day with over 100,000 COVID-19 cases recorded in the nation.

Forty-seven states, as well as Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico, are reporting a surge in cases, according to an ABC News analysis.

Twenty-nine states as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are seeing a daily increase in deaths. Twenty-three states are seeing an increase in hospitalizations.

Intensive care units at hospitals all over the country are nearing capacity.

Iowa was among the states with a record number of hospitalizations due to the virus on Saturday, ABC Cedar Rapids affiliate KCRG-TV reported.

Hospitals in Detroit are experiencing a shortage of COVID-19 testing supplies, ABC Michigan affiliate WXYZ-TV reported, and the Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas, has reported that 55 staff members are now sick with the virus, including 25 nurses, Springfield, Missouri, station KYTV reported.

Minnesota has reached a “desperate and dangerous place” with the spread of the virus, Kris Ehresmann of the Minnesota Department of Public said in a statement on Saturday after a record 8,703 new cases and 35 deaths were reported in the state, the Star Tribune reported.

Cases in neighboring states such as North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin continued to remain high as well, according to the Star Tribune.

More than 31,000 active cases have been reported in the city of El Paso, Texas, alone. A curfew was ordered in El Paso last month after the infection rate increased 160%.

Prison inmates from the El Paso County Detention Facility are now assisting “exhausted” personnel from the city’s Medical Examiner’s Office by moving bodies to mobile morgues, ABC El Paso affiliate KVIA-TV reported. The help is temporary as the city awaits the arrival of the Texas National Guard.

Dr. Atul Gawande, who is on President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on This Week Sunday that the the country is in need of a “clear voice” from the top of the federal government.

“And we’ve lacked that,” Gawande said. “It’s led to disarray for the public and confusing messages. That will change.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union that President Donald Trump has not been to a COVID-19 task force meeting in several months.

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