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Washington governor asked to rethink restaurant restrictions

Washington governor asked to rethink restaurant restrictions

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A group of Democratic lawmakers and a hospitality association want Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee to reconsider his four-week ban on indoor dining that took effect this week.

The Seattle Times reported that on Wednesday, the Washington Hospitality Association, a trade group that represents more than 6,000 members of the lodging and restaurant industry, wrote a letter to Inslee saying the latest restrictions meant to stem rising cases of the coronavirus "will mean 100,000 families or more will lose their income right before the holidays.”

Julia Gorton, the association's director of state government affairs, refuted the Democratic governor's claim that restaurants are a significant source of COVID-19 cases in the state, saying that social gatherings — which health officials have pointed to previously — are the main source of the rise.

Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Inslee, said the virus spreads "when people are in close contact, unmasked, and indoors for a prolonged period of time. That is absolutely happening at restaurants.”

Nine Democratic lawmakers want Inslee to consider replacing the ban on indoor dining with stricter limits on how many people restaurants and bars can serve inside at any one time, The Everett Herald reported.

“While we understand that the current trajectory of COVID cases is unsustainable and that a pullback is necessary and appropriate to save lives, the impacts of this specific measure will leave lasting holes in the economic and cultural fabric of every community across the state,” reads a letter to Inslee from seven state senators and two representatives.

The lawmakers, some of whom are set to meet with Inslee on Friday, are suggesting that the governor let restaurants operate at 25% of their indoor capacity. They also suggest that he reinstate limits on how many people can sit at one table and require only people from the same household to eat together.

Working Washington, a workers' organization, issued a statement Thursday rejecting the push to overturn any restrictions on indoor dining, saying that restaurant workers “are concerned about their own safety at work with regard to indoor dining, especially as dine-in customers have often ignored masking requirements, owners have pushed to seat large parties in dangerous circumstances, and many employers have failed to share information about COVID-positive co-workers and customers.”

As of this week, there have been more than 137,000 confirmed cases in the state and 2,603 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.

On Sunday, Inslee announced new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next four weeks in light of rising numbers. Those restrictions include the closure of fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers and movie theaters, and require restaurants and bars to be limited to to-go service and outdoor dining. Those restrictions come after businesses had started to regain activity as restrictions from the initial stay-at-home order issued in March were loosened in May.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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