Pandemic worries force closure of all "non-family" events in Seattle

Mar 11 2020, 1:30 pm

With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, Governor Jay Inslee has officially imposed restrictions on large gatherings in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

Large gatherings apply to “250 people or more for social, spiritual, and recreational activities including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, and similar activities,” he said in a press conference this morning.

These restrictions will be in order until midnight on March 31, 2020, unless extended beyond that date. The restriction is the latest in a series of distancing measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus and to avoid a total shutdown as seen in Italy and China.

School districts in Washington State have been asked to immediately begin contingency planning for possible school closures in the next couple of days. “We know that schools can help us in providing nutritional needs for children and can help consider what we can do for childcare,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said that while children don’t typically show symptoms of coronavirus, they are still carriers of the virus that can be passed on to high-risk adults.

King County Officials are expecting a large-scale outbreak in weeks, which will likely go on for months. The blue line on the infographic below details what will supposedly happen if distancing measures are not initiated.

Image from King County Press Conference Monday, March 11

In King County, public health officials are taking Governor Jay Inslee’s advice one step further, prohibiting events with fewer than 250 attendees unless event organizers can minimize risk to those attending.

Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions will be actively encouraged not to attend, while employees at the gathering sites will be screened for coronavirus symptoms each day.

“This order is not intended for grocery or other retail establishments or family events,” Duchin said. “We realize we can’t stop everyone… Life has to go on. What this is all about is decreasing the bringing of people that is non-essential.”

Officials of King County are urging the public to follow the following four recommendations:

  1. Remind high-risk populations that this is not the time to be going out in close contact.
  2. Employers must make changes to how they do business and should maximize telecommuting.
  3. Organizational leaders must embed into their systems social distancing. Business leaders need to think about how to increase the distance between employees and customers.
  4. Public transit officials have to clean and sanitize public transit as per CDC guidelines.

As of the latest update on March 10, King County currently has 190 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 22 confirmed deaths.