Washington Gov. Inslee extends partial shutdown into 2021, announces more state aid


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has added three more weeks to the state's partial shutdown, he announced during a Tuesday news conference.

The shutdown, which bans indoor dining and limits social gatherings, now is scheduled to end Jan. 4, 2021.

Inslee has distributed $50 million directly to small businesses through Working Washington grants.

On Tuesday, the governor was joined by Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown, who announced an additional $50 million for struggling small businesses during the shutdown.

The three-week extension of statewide restrictions comes as Washington health officials worry the pandemic could strain the health care system.

With the effect of Thanksgiving on case rates and hospitalizations still unknown, officials hope the extension will grant the state’s medical system more time to increase ICU capacity.

“They’re not all COVID patients taking up the ICU beds, which is very important to remember: If COVID overwhelms our medical facilities, every other person with a significant medical need will be affected, not just COVID-19 patients,” Inslee said.

About 80% of ICU beds are occupied, with about 1,000 residents in those units.

“We all hoped a fall surge would not materialize,” Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said. “Sadly, that was not the case and our hospital systems continue to be heavily impacted by rising cases. It’s important we stay the course right now.”

On Monday, the Washington Department of Health reported 6,972 new cases of COVID-19, which includes a backlog of positive lab test results from the past week and nearly 1,800 duplicates that “have not yet been resolved.”

Washington has now seen 184,404 cases since the pandemic began and 2,941 deaths of people with the virus as of Sunday.

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