Statewide restrictions enacted Sunday, Nov. 15, has closed indoor dining and meetings as well as the closure of amenities such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and gymnasiums. The YMCA of Sequim is able to keep the facility’s pool open for use, however, the organization said this week. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

Statewide restrictions enacted Sunday, Nov. 15, has closed indoor dining and meetings as well as the closure of amenities such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and gymnasiums. The YMCA of Sequim is able to keep the facility’s pool open for use, however, the organization said this week. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

New COVID-19 restrictions in place as state shuts down again

A significant spike of COVID-19 cases across Washington state moved Gov. Jay Inslee to mandate restrictions on restaurants, fitness centers and other indoor activities to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Bars and restaurants were required to close for dine-in service at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18 as part of sweeping measures announced Inslee on Sunday.

Along with eateries, other types of businesses including gyms, bowling centers, movie theaters and museums, were ordered to close indoor services from Monday through Dec. 14.

Indoor social gatherings with people from more than one household are prohibited under Inslee’s latest order unless attendees have quarantined for 14 days or have tested negative for COVID-19 and quarantined for seven days.

In-store retail is limited to 25 percent of indoor occupancy limits.

While indoor visits at long-term care facilities are prohibited, individual exceptions for an essential support person or end-of-life care are permitted, state officials said Sunday.

Outdoor social gatherings are limited to five people from outside one’s household. Religious services are limited to 25 percent of indoor occupancy limits, or no more than 200 people (whichever is fewer). Congregation members/attendees must wear facial coverings and congregation singing is prohibited. All music is limited to vocal or instrumental soloists, or a vocal soloists with a single accompanist.

While there is no enforcement mechanism for indoor gatherings, Inslee has said he hopes people would follow the rules to help stave off a third wave of the highly contagious virus.

“Inaction here is not an option,” Inslee said Sunday.

In Sequim, the Emergency Contingency Center (ECC), a partnership between the City of Sequim, Clallam County Fire District 3 and Sequim School District to monitor the virus and handle local measures has not been reactivated.

The task force started in the Sequim Transit Center before moving to the Guy Cole Events Center last spring under the advisement of Clallam County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

“Staff assigned to the ECC continue to monitor the situation and will activate, likely virtually, if we get to a point where significant additional and sustained action is needed for the Sequim area,” said Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush. “At this stage of the pandemic, ECC activation would likely be triggered by requests from the county.”

Schools stay open for now

School districts were not required to close as part of Inslee’s announcement; however, local school district superintendents were scheduled to meet with Clallam County Health Office Allison Unthank Tuesday (Nov. 17) to talk about the rise in COVID-19 numbers, according to Jane Pryne, Sequim School District’s acting superintendent.

School district officials on the peninsula earlier this year set a benchmark of COVID-19 rates under the “high” status (75 cases per 100,000 population) for at least two consecutive weeks to allow students back into school buildings. Clallam County’s rate was at 71 as of early Tuesday morning.

“We were looking at our criteria for re-entering students into school,” Pryne said.

Sequim’s elementary schools this week added back its final group of students — those in fourth and fifth grades — as they assimilate to the district’s AA/BB hybrid model that places half of students at each grade level in Sequim buildings for in-person instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half of each grade level in schools Thursdays and Fridays.

Other than some high school students involved in career and technical education classes at Sequim High School and some with specialized needs, the remainder of Sequim students in grades 6-12 are learning remotely.

“I am cautiously optimistic … we can keep our kiddos in school, especially our fourth and fifth graders who just got back into school,” Pryne said at a Nov. 16 school board meeting.

“That in-person education is so necessary but at the same time I worry about the rates going up; (it) puts us in a difficult spot,” Sequim School Board vice president Eric Pickens said Monday.

“There’s some liability issues that come into play.”

In a district-wide note to parents, Pryne noted that all high school indoor sports, a cheer-leading clinic, and girls soccer would be affected by new state guidelines. High school football players would be allowed to practice through Friday before shutting down.

Business impact

Ginny Holladay, communications director for the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Information Center, said Sequim continues to see a large amount of visitors with some days even breaking records.

“People are still coming here,” she said.” A big part of that is we’re a rural community, so it feels safer to some.”

Holladay said the chamber and business leaders continue to encourage inclusiveness while being as safe as possible.

“We might be that go-to place for people to come here,” she said, “and we want to be ready for that.”

She said most of Sequim’s restaurants adapted during the initial measures.

“Almost all of our restaurants have been so quick to pivot to stay open by increasing curbside orders, and/or delivery service,” Holladay said.

“We want to do anything we can do to lift up small businesses,” she added. “This next set of (state) orders is going to be harder than ever on our business community and anything we can do right now is crucial.”

Restaurants take a hit

Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce Director Marc Abshire said the new COVID-19 restrictions are more targeted than they were during the initial lock-down.

“I appreciate the state being a little bit less restrictive on some types of businesses, and then knowing that they need to be more restrictive on others,” Abshire said.

“Of course, it’s going to have a negative impact on our economy, but hopefully it will have a positive impact on our health.”

Abshire said bars and restaurants would likely be most impacted by the governor’s order.

“A lot of them have already got curbside and takeout procedures worked out really well from before, so hopefully they’ll be able to enact some of that again,” Abshire said Monday.

“It’s pretty sad that we got targeted directly,” said Michael McQuay, owner of Kokopelli Grill and Coyote BBQ Pub in Port Angeles.

About half of Coyote BBQ customers — and 20 to 30 percent of Kokopelli patrons — are ordering take-out now.

“We’ve gotten really good at it,” McQuay said. “We’ve got robust online systems for that.”

Next Door Gastropub in Port Angeles will offer daily take-out service from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“It’s troubling and difficult times, for sure, but we’re going to get though it because that’s what we do,” said Jake Oppelt, who owns Next Door Gastropub and Bourbon West in Port Angeles.

“As far as the orders go, I think we need better leadership than what Inslee is demonstrating.”

Oppelt said a regional approach to the pandemic is the “only approach that makes sense.”

“I don’t believe the entire state should be governed the same way, and I think people should be able to choose what’s reasonable for themselves and/or their businesses and assess their own risks,” Oppelt said in a text message.

Oppelt and Abshire each encouraged the public to support local businesses.

“It’s four weeks, and it just so happens to be four weeks of the holiday season, when a lot of our businesses are really hoping to have sales,” Abshire said in a telephone interview.

“So I really think it’s even more imperative on our local community to shop local and support the local businesses that are open and that can stay open.”

YMCA

Peninsula YMCA facilities closed Tuesday, with most in-person classes, programs, and events postponed or cancelled. Childcare programs through the YMCA of Port Angeles and YMCA of Jefferson County will continue to operate during facility closures.

The facilities in Sequim and Port Angeles will continue to provide small group youth and adult enrichment classes, however, and the pool at the Sequim YMCA, 610 N. Fifth Ave., remains open for use.

“Closing our facilities is difficult for both our staff and our members, but we know that it is incredibly important to do everything possible to get on the other side of this pandemic,” Olympic Peninsula YMCA officials said Monday.

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