As new coronavirus cases soar and hospital intensive care units fill up, Gov. Jay Inslee called Sunday (Nov. 15) the state’s “most dangerous public health day” in the past 100 years and issued new public health guidelines restricting gatherings at businesses and homes.
Statewide and in King County, new cases of coronavirus infection reached grim heights over the past week. Public health officials reported 2,147 more COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths Friday. The state’s previous high mark was nearly 1,700 coronavirus cases in a day. In the past 14 days, King County has seen 5,913 positive cases and 16 deaths as of Nov. 15.
Inslee called the current surge the “third wave” and warned it could be more dangerous than the previous rises this year.
“We are in a more dangerous position than we were in March when our first stay-at-home order was issued,” Inslee said.
Most of the rules take effect Tuesday morning (Nov. 17) and last four weeks. They prohibit indoor service at bars and restaurants and people from hosting guests in their homes. Restaurants can’t have indoor dining after Tuesday night. Grocery stores and other in-store retailer capacity is set to drop to 25% occupancy, and indoor food court seating will close.
Decisions about early childhood and kindergarten through 12th grade education will remain in local control, however.
The recovery can be long for people who survive the illness. On the other side of the personal protective equipment, healthcare workers are worn out after months treating patients, with and without COVID-19.
“We’ve been in this pandemic for eight months now and we are exhausted, we are tired,” said Clint Wallace, an intensive care unit nurse at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center COVID unit. “We’re close as a whole as healthcare workers to being burned out. We are pleading with our fellow Washingtonians and the world.”
The sudden crush of sick people has strained health care providers’ capacity, said Dr. George Diaz of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. He is an infectious disease specialist overseeing the hospital’s response to the virus and was part of the team treating the country’s first COVID-19 patient.
“They accumulate and quickly take up our ICU beds,” Diaz said of people hospitalized with the new coronavirus.
The state’s actions are meant to stem the spread and keep Washington’s healthcare providers open to all patients.
“It is important for patients to continue to receive care at hospitals,” Diaz said.
The new rules aren’t made by the stores and people shouldn’t get upset with employees enforcing the public health rules, Washington Food Industry Association CEO Tammie Hetrick said in a news release.
“Since the early days of the outbreak, grocery stores have complied with COVID regulations — masking up, sanitizing, and providing clean, safe shopping experiences,” Hetrick said. “Now, our members are asking for your continued patience as local grocers adjust to operating under these new rules during the busiest shopping season of the year.”