Federal Way residents Kevin Jochim, left, and Steve Reichel enjoy drinks on the new patio area at JP’s Tavern on Aug. 5, 2020. Restaurants and bars embraced outdoor seating during the pandemic. File photo

Federal Way residents Kevin Jochim, left, and Steve Reichel enjoy drinks on the new patio area at JP’s Tavern on Aug. 5, 2020. Restaurants and bars embraced outdoor seating during the pandemic. File photo

Governor lifts restrictions, but health officials warn the pandemic is not over

  • By Jerry Cornfield jcornfield@soundpublishing.com and Joseph Thompson jthompson@soundpublishing.com
  • Wednesday, June 30, 2021 11:07am
  • NewsCoronavirus

As of June 30, bar-goers are able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and diners can sit at restaurant tables that have long been vacant to reduce capacity — more signs that pre-pandemic life is returning.

Home to the nation’s first known case of coronavirus and the first fatality, Washington has lifted most remaining restrictions imposed on the private sector and public life, measures intended to blunt the spread of the deadly disease.

As of 12:01 a.m., restaurants, bars, retail stores, supermarkets, movie theaters, gyms, stadiums — pretty much all commercial enterprises — were able to operate at full capacity for the first time since mid-March 2020.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered their closure 15 months ago to protect the public health and safety. Weeks later, he ended the order and replaced it with caps on how many people could frequent commercial establishments and how many could attend activities from church services and funerals to sporting events and concerts.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud of how Washingtonians came together, persevered and sacrificed to fight this virus, and now we’re finally in a place that is safe enough to end this chapter,” Inslee said in a statement Tuesday.

“Even though Wednesday marks a new stage in our continued efforts to defeat this pandemic, we still have work to do,” he said. “Continued success depends on everyone getting vaccinated and encouraging any loved one who has not yet received this lifesaving vaccine to do so, and quickly.”

Inslee announced last month that June 30 would be the date for reopening. But he also said he would lift the restrictions sooner if 70% of Washingtonians 16 and older initiated vaccinations before that date. That rate was 68.8% late Monday.

Also gone Wednesday are state requirements for social distancing. And when it comes to wearing masks, the state is stepping back and letting businesses and public entities set their own rules. However, unvaccinated employees are still required to wear masks in most settings.

“Today is a celebratory day,” Anthony Anton, president of the state hospitality association, told reporters Tuesday.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, bars had the option of returning to their previous closing time of 2 a.m. And customers can once again saddle up on bar stools, which was disallowed during the pandemic.

But Anton is asking patrons to be patient. Many restaurants and bars are having a hard time recruiting staff, many of whom fled to other industries during COVID.

“We are still trying to find our workforce,” he said. “Please show grace to the workers who are there.”

Inslee plans to mark the occasion of the state’s reopening Wednesday by attending events in Tacoma and Spokane. On Thursday, he intends to raise a flag emblazoned with “Washington Ready” above the Space Needle in Seattle. He also plans to drop by Pike Place Market.

With reopening comes a return of many in-person activities long-paused by cities, counties and the state.

In Olympia, the state Capitol will reopen to the public Thursday after being closed since March 2020. Tours will start again soon. Closure of the building forced the Legislature to conduct its 2021 session remotely.

And those rallies on the steps could be returning, too. The Department of Enterprise Services has begun considering requests for permits for outdoor events.

While life is going to look and feel a lot like normal, public health experts warn the pandemic is far from over.

“We have come a long way and sacrificed a lot to make it to this point,” Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said during a Tuesday media briefing. “While we may feel done with COVID, COVID isn’t done with us. We honestly don’t know what the future holds. Be smart, get vaccinated.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

File photo.
Mysterious in-home deaths of father, two daughters ruled as starvation

Written materials about fasting were found in the home; the father’s death called a suicide.

Dr. Faisal Khan. Courtesy of King County.
Dr. Faisal Khan appointed as next King County health director

Dennis Worsham will continue to serve as interim director until September 6.

Tsr
Renton spa employee accused of trying to coerce woman into prostitution, posing nude

Quyen T. Nguyen, 39, has been accused of attempted promotion of prostitution… Continue reading

Teaser
King County experts discuss extreme heat mitigation plan

The plan includes improving infrastructure and communications to prevent future disasters.

T
Public art call for South King County transit corridor

Deadline is July 13 for artists to apply to have their work in new RapidRide expansion.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg (File Photo)
King County Prosecuting Attorney vows to protect reproductive freedom

Dan Satterberg joins over 80 prosecutors from around the country in their pledge.

Teaser
King County approves emergency grant after U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Washington is expecting an influx of people seeking abortions from out of state.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Most Read