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Washington state extends ban on indoor dining

Washington state Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeThousands of troops dig in for inauguration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Nine, including former Michigan governor, charged over Flint water crisis | Regulator finalizes rule forcing banks to serve oil, gun companies | Trump admin adds hurdle to increase efficiency standards for furnaces, water heaters Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings MORE (D) this week extended a statewide ban on indoor dining as well as gyms and fitness centers for at least an additional week amid surges in coronavirus infections. 

On Wednesday, the governor’s office announced that Inslee’s “Stay Safe-Stay Healthy” proclamation that includes the restrictions on indoor gatherings would expire on Jan. 11 instead of Jan. 4. 

The restrictions, initially implemented in mid-November, were set to expire on Dec. 14 but were pushed back due to concerns on the virus’ spread over the holidays. 

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"Our consistent mission has been keeping Washingtonians safe and ensuring health care system and hospital capacity," Inslee said in a statement. "We understand the profound impact COVID is having on our healthcare system, families, and businesses, but I am heartened by the number of Washingtonians who continue to do the right thing."

The former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate added, “If we continue distancing from others, wearing facial coverings and avoiding social gatherings, we will make it to the other side of this pandemic together.”

Wednesday’s statement from Inslee’s office added that an updated plan will be released next week “to provide a pathway for businesses and workers impacted by this order to reopen safely.” 

Umair Shah, the new state health secretary, said that while new cases and hospitalizations in Washington have largely leveled off, “We want to continue to see those numbers come down.” 

“Whether it’s in the health care system or in the community, we’ve got to work on this and be able to drive the numbers down,” Shah added, according to The Seattle Times

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However, Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, condemned the extension Wednesday, writing in a statement, “When will main street businesses see a plan from the governor that will pull them back from the brink rather than pushing them over it?”

“When the governor substantially shut down the hospitality industry in November, he indicated cases would level off and we expected to see a detailed path to reopening,” Anton continued, according to NBC’s Seattle affiliate station, KING-TV. “Seven weeks later, neither of those things are true. Hospitality operators are falling deeper in the red, hospitality workers remain out of work, businesses are closing, and household bills are going unpaid."

As of Thursday, the Washington State Department of Health has recorded more than 237,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, along with 14,748 hospitalizations and 3,461 deaths due to the virus. 

Last week, Inslee announced new restrictions for travelers arriving from the U.K. and South Africa due to a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus found in the two countries. Inslee said at the time that the orders would require a 14-day quarantine for all travelers from the countries.