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Washington, Ground Zero for U.S. Outbreak, Reinstates Curbs

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Washington Governor Jay Inslee reinstated a series of restrictions on social gatherings as the state enters what he called “the third wave” of the pandemic, which he said will be far more dangerous than the earlier phases.

Restaurants will no longer be allowed to serve patrons indoors, and outdoor dining will be limited to no more than five people under the new measures, he said. Gatherings with people outside of the same household indoors will also be prohibited, unless visitors follow quarantine rules. The new curbs will take effect at the end of the day on Monday, and last through Dec. 14. For restaurants, those measures will be effective starting Wednesday.

The capacity for grocery stores and retailers will be limited to 25%, he said. Childcare services or K-12 education will not be affected.

“We are today in a more dangerous position than we were in March,” Inslee said on a media briefing Sunday. “Inaction here is not an option. We have to take bold, decisive action.”

Washington was ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., hit by the first case on Jan. 21. The state has been praised for keeping the outbreak under relative control under an earlier stay-home order.

The state reported a record 2,286 new cases Saturday, and Inslee said Sunday’s numbers are expected to exceed that. The outbreak is straining resources on hospitals and set to affect non-Covid health-care services if it isn’t controlled, the Democrat governor said.

To help mitigate financial impact on businesses and their employees, the state will commit $50 million in aid, he said.

“We need to hold this pandemic down until the calvary arrives,” he said, referring to prospects for a vaccine. “We also cannot enjoy a full economic recovery, which we all desperately want, without knocking down this virus.”

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