Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Wednesday a ban of gatherings and events of more than 250 people in three counties, including the greater Seattle area, due to COVID-19.
The three counties are: King, Pierce and Snohomish. Inslee said the three counties were based on the spread of the novel coronavirus in those areas. The prohibition could be expanded in the days to come, Inslee said.
The gatherings include all social, recreational and spiritual events. The ban will be through at least March and could be extended.
Inslee also said school districts and parents should be prepared for possible school closures. On Wednesday afternoon, Seattle Public Schools announced it will close for two weeks beginning March 12.
“This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can’t wait until we’re in the middle of it to slow it down,” Inslee said. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve. One main defence is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”
In addition to Gov. Inslee’s ban on gatherings of 250 people or more, King County officials are prohibiting events of fewer than 250 people unless organizers can prove they have followed “very clear public health recommended steps are taken.” That does not includes businesses such as grocery stores or restaurants – those establishments will be asked to follow specific guidelines. Seattle is located in King County.
Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, called the coronavirus outbreak an “unprecedented emergency.” A large-scale outbreak is possible within weeks.
“This will be a difficult time,” he said, comparing the outbreak to a “major earthquake.”
In Washington state, 29 people have died among at least 366 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Western Hockey League says in a statement it will “comply with the public gathering requirements for the upcoming WHL home games of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips” after Washington State’s decision to ban large group events in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The statement said the league, Silvertips and Thunderbirds will be reviewing the remaining regular-season games scheduled in the Seattle area and will provide more information at a later date.
The Thunderbirds, who play south of Seattle in Kent, Wash., have three home games remaining this season. The Silvertips, based north of Seattle, have one home game left on their schedule.
“We take the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans, and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously, and will take every step necessary to assist in containing this virus,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison said.