Inslee says returning to tougher COVID-19 restrictions a ‘distinct possibility’

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Gov. Jay Inslee said today there is a “distinct possibility” tougher restrictions on businesses and social gatherings could be re-imposed throughout the state if COVID-19 numbers continue on their current path.

“You look at the course we are on. Thousands more will die if we don’t act,” Inslee said.

At the same time, the governor said plans are moving forward to reopen schools in the fall on a district-by-district basis.

“We do believe there is still a path to have on-site instruction in our schools. It could be two days a week in some districts,” he said.

Inslee said the state will allow school districts to make those decisions based on the guidance the state has set out.

Inslee extended his pause on the phased reopening of the economy, saying no changes in phases will be considered until at least July 28.

Among the trends that need to be reversed to avoid more restrictions are the hospitalizations from the virus and the percentage of positive tests being reported.

“We simply cannot and will not accept a situation where our hospitals are overwhelmed,” Inslee said.

The governor again said he does not believe the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state are solely the product of more testing, pointing out that the rate of positive results has grown from around 4 percent of those tested to 8 percent or above in recent weeks.

Among the businesses likely to face further restrictions or closings are bars and restaurants, Inslee said.

“We are heading to big trouble if we do not figure out a way to knock this pandemic down.” he said.

He said he would like more time for his mandatory face-covering rule to reverse the rise in cases before ordering more restrictions. Masks became mandatory in all public places a week ago.

When asked if the state has been receiving complaints about businesses not complying with the mask rule, Inslee said “I am aware there have been some. I am unaware of any enforcement action that has taken place.”