UPDATE: Governor reduces religious-gathering restrictions, but no stay-home decision yet

2:34 PM: Gov. Inslee has just started his first media briefing of the week, announced as “an update on the state’s COVID-19 response,” with four days to go until the current expiration of We’ll add notes as it goes.

He opens by announcing that some “restrictions on religious gatherings” will be “eased,” both for Phase 1 and Phase 2 areas. He introduces religious leaders from Muslim, Jewish, and Christian organization. “For in-person services … Phase 1” will now allow “outdoor religious services” on or adjacent to the organization’s property, up to 100 people if they’re wearing face coverings (and using physical distancing). For Phase 2 areas, indoor services at 25 percent of capacity will be allowed. Choir singing won’t be allowed yet, though, because of science regarding transmissibility.

2:45 PM: The governor turned over the mic, so to speak, first to Aneelah Afzali, the West Seattleite and local Muslim leader, who said that Muslims are yearning to return to mosques but that preserving life was the paramount goal. She’s followed by Olympia rabbi Yosef Schtroks, who makes a similar statement. After him, Lutheran Bishop Shelley Bryan Wee speaks, urging people to follow the governor’s protocols to protect each other.

2:53 PM: Before moving on to Q&A, the governor announces that more counties have moved to Phase 2, now 24 in all. “We remain hard at work determining our next steps as a state come June 1 … we’ll have more to say in the next few days.”

First Q, the current eligibility metrics seem impossible for larger counties, so might they change? And if you’re going to require face coverings for religious services, why not, say, grocery stores? He says he’ll have more to say about the latter “probably Thursday or Friday.” For the former, “we may have more to say in the future” is all he’ll say: “We look at the science on a daily basis … we’re continuing to think about the criteria going forward.”

Next Q, another two-parter: Is he standing by his Employment Security Department director given the fraud situation, and might he let larger counties make their own decisions? To the former, he has words of scorn for the criminals. “I stand against them and we’re doing everything we can to fight them.” To the latter, he notes the counties can maintain their own restrictions if they’re tougher than the state. “The difficult part for us to realize is … we’ve knocked down the fatalities … but the evidence remains clear that this could spring back quickly.” Overall, he declares, “We’re making real progress in our state.”

Then: What’ll be done for people who now are being told they can’t get their unemployment payments at all? He says the department’s doing everything it can. He says the ESD director thinks there’ll be big progress in the next two weeks or so, and “will have more to say about that tomorrow.” Also: Why does the governor have any say over religious gatherings at all? Inslee replies that in emergencies, that authority is established “in American law.”

Might some counties end up moving to Phase 3 while others remain in Phase 1? “It’s possible,” Inslee says. After that, he’s asked why our state is still “stricter” than others. “Because people are dying … we still have a meaningful infection rate in our state,” he replies. In response to another question, he says people seem to be adopting more protection – face covering, social distancing – even as they resume more activities – he says infections haven’t increased at the same rate as mobility. He repeats that they’re “still developing” plans for the counties that remain in Phase 1.

Another question is about Chelan and Douglas counties’ lawsuit. The governor repeats that he is hopeful the infection rate will allow those counties to move to Phase 2. He reminds people that this state was first and hardest hit and has made progress. As for the lawsuit itself, he says they certainly have the right to go to court but “we believe we’re on sound ground making these decisions.” … After that, might he consider graduations for loosening restrictions like will be done for religious gatherings? No – the latter are getting special treatment because of their unique constitutional protection. Then: Is the public-health emergency over? His reply boiled down to “No. … If we give up now, this disease is going to come back big time.”

In closing: “I just want to thank everyone (for their efforts) to defeat this virus,” and he says this is the “hardest phase” …adding that “today the mark of heroism is giving your neighbor some space on the sidewalk, or wearing a mask at the grocery store.” He wraps at 3:30 pm; the full video should be available soon in the same window above, and we’ll link the document about today’s religious-gatherings announcement when it’s available.

4:41 PM: Find that document here.

39 Replies to "UPDATE: Governor reduces religious-gathering restrictions, but no stay-home decision yet"

  • C May 27, 2020 (3:16 pm)

    The governor is effectively not answering most of the questions being asked. 

  • Bradley May 27, 2020 (3:52 pm)

    I’ve come to expect nothing but disappointment from Inslee. It’s time for a new Governor.

    • Carrie May 28, 2020 (10:19 pm)

      Why?  He’s pretty much done the best job of handling the virus as anyone in the country. 

  • Duffy May 27, 2020 (4:16 pm)

    I’m an Inslee supporter but this guy has lost me. All of this to do is about houses of worship? So they are getting exceptions because of their protections? What about our protections to LIVE?!?! Especially after all of the examples of the virus spreading like crazy in churches and congregations across the country?

    • eigenwijs May 27, 2020 (4:47 pm)

      I’m guessing this is in response to the federal government’s command last week that churches must be opened…

      • wscommuter May 27, 2020 (7:02 pm)

        It wasn’t the “federal government’s” command; the the moronic pandering of the fraud living in the White House.  There actually is a difference.  

    • WSMom May 27, 2020 (5:47 pm)

      Duffy, you can thank the President for churches opening. Death rates will go up thanks to his decision. 

      • Um, No! May 28, 2020 (8:39 am)

        And WSMOM,  you can thank the Governor for allowing city crews, city/county construction,  liquor stores, pot shops,  buses, and the airports to remain open.  How many lives have been lost due to his decisions?    Not defending the President but you can’t really try to blame him for  any deaths due to churches opening up (and with restrictions by the way) and not say the same thing about our Governor.    And then there is always that pesky constitution that gets in the way. 

  • West Seattle Hipster May 27, 2020 (4:41 pm)

    Houses of worship are non-essential and should be among the last businesses to open.

    • Um, No! May 27, 2020 (5:46 pm)

      Neither are liquor stores and pot shops. But wait, that’s right, the state gets big taxes off those sales. And come to think of it, neither are germy (sp?) buses. As we’re consistently reminded here, just get a bike. So, let’s shut down buses, pot shops and liquor stores. At least until phase 2.

    • DH May 27, 2020 (6:15 pm)

      Obviously they are nonessential to you but they are to others. While I disagree that it should be a free for all in large group meetings religious observance IS essential for some people. It seems ridiculous to allow cannabis stores and Target to be open but not religious services. I say that as an atheist. 

      • M.B. May 28, 2020 (8:06 am)

        There are a lot of people who use cannabis medically. Unfortunately,  this state made it so that it really isn’t worth it to get a medical card, and shops aren’t really divided into recreational and medical only.I have a chronic pain condition. The air from a fan can feel like razors cutting across my skin. Sheets can feel like sandpaper. A hug can feel like I’m being crushed. My pain leads to insomnia and depression, and even suicidal thoughts.My options are cannabis, or multiple highly addictive medications with negative side effects, but which still aren’t as effective as cannabis.For some of us it is far more essential than most of you can ever imagine.

        • Um, No! May 28, 2020 (12:08 pm)

          First sorry to hear about your condition.  I don’t think anyone has been or would have been denied prescribed medicine whether a pain killer or pot.   I think recreational use Faaaaaar out numbers medical use though.  Is recreational pot use and drinking a cold one really essential?   Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I can go buy a nice bottle of bourbon right now but the completely random picking and choosing what’s really essential by one person really and truly just comes down to $$$,  not lives.  

      • John May 28, 2020 (1:53 pm)

        Religion, for those true believers, can be in observance anywhere, anytime.  Ritualized gatherings of people typical of churches involves close proximity to others, singing, sharing and sitting on long pews as well as other risk exposures such as duration of service not found in the convenience/liquor stores or pot shops where one remains standing, makes no physical contacts save for payment exchange and is gone within a few minutes.

    • D May 27, 2020 (6:23 pm)

      Houses of worship should be treated the same as liquor stores, cannabis shops, or any non-secular business.Or does the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the fundamental precepts on which this country was founded on mean nothing?Either way, SCOTUS has two emergency relief requests for two states for exactly this. 

    • The King May 27, 2020 (7:19 pm)

      Labeling anyone “non-essential” is such a great way to trivialize people’s lives, careers, businesses, etc. Elected politicians smiling while saying “we’re all in this together”, yet they have no idea how it feels to be put on the economic losing team. Must be nice to be on the winning team. 

    • Native May 27, 2020 (8:49 pm)

      Better repent on that ….churches and faith not fear are about the most essential
      We have !

  • Felix May 27, 2020 (5:03 pm)

    Will small businesses be allowed to open up again? Reduction of people of course.

    • WSB May 27, 2020 (5:07 pm)

      King County remains in Phase 1. That hasn’t changed yet.

  • toyo May 27, 2020 (5:20 pm)

    OMG….come on open up the hair salons!!!! My hair is driving me crazy! OK, OK that was an unnecessary  outburst… I ‘ll wait :(  

    • Lmrb May 28, 2020 (9:50 am)

      Agreed.  This is me everyday.  I believe in Flattening the curve, wearing masks, etc…..but I would pay a small fortune for my hair to be cut and to get my nails done.  

  • Fed up with this May 27, 2020 (5:22 pm)

    I vote Democrat but I cannot deal with him any longer.  We are not an island.  He can keep us closed until we have no cases and then they will come here from somewhere else.  Waste of time.  We flattened the curve 6 weeks ago and now the rules have changed.  No faith or trust in what he says.  

    • Greg May 28, 2020 (5:05 am)

      You say that we are closed.  I see much open right now.  Many want more open.  I say too much is open and I am very concerned about our exposure. Mid June death count will prove this opening culture strategy.  WSB is too exposed to risk versus need by community.  Who can pick up the banner?

  • Mj May 27, 2020 (6:31 pm)

    Inslee keeps kicking the can down the street.  First deadline schools closed to April 27th, extended, stay at home to May 4th extended.  Enough extensions Phase 2 needs to happen on June 1st!

  • Bronson May 28, 2020 (7:29 am)

    If Inslee’s actions weren’t so critical to so many people’s economic well-being, his goalpost moving and constant non-answers to the questions being asked of him would be comical. We have the strictest measures in the nation for moving from one phase to the next. 10 new cases per day per 100,000 people is an impossible metric (0.01% infection rate) to meet, particularly given the number of elder care homes. In LA, they are already eating out at restaurants. Even in NYC last week, they were permitted to gather in groups of 10! NYC!!! If Inslee doesn’t move us to Phase 2 by June 1st, he has lost this lifelong Democrat’s vote this Fall. 

  • shawn May 28, 2020 (7:47 am)

    This is a mistake and will get people killed.  I get Inslee’s under pressure to do this, but that doesn’t make it right. He should have had the courage to maintain the lockdown properly, without these kind of dangerous exceptions. We’re not even close to having enough tests running for this level of congregating… Doesn’t matter if its outside or not.  And this will further convince people things are somehow “fine”, with an inevitable second wave as our reward.   Please, for everyone’s sake, stay home!

    • Planet earth May 28, 2020 (11:30 am)

      I understand your concern and also think it would be better for groups to wait longer before congregating. However, I think the complexity of these decisions, our governor is being faced with, is greater than you are recognizing or giving him credit for.

      The guidelines seem fairly thorough and actually somewhat prohibitive. Currently, only 25% occupancy is allowed, and there are a number of measures that will have to be implemented and followed, for social distancing, disinfecting, etc. I heard the governor multiple times emphasize how successful many groups have been at coming together through technology and he seemed to be strongly encouraging more of that to continue. I hope it does.

      Unfortunately, there will be some continued transmission and we do have to begin to reopen some things, and begin the next phases of this, and begin contact tracing, etc. I hope and support this happening slowly and carefully, to reduce transmission and keep as many healthy as possible. 

      Groups and business who choose to reopen now, are choosing to potentially be vectors and to be part of the experiment of this next phase.  Some will choose to wait until further along, when transmission appears to be better managed.

  • sgs May 28, 2020 (7:55 am)

    If services are outside, it seems to be no different than social distancing at a park or at Alki.  Also, as a churchgoer, let me tell you that people will not be flocking back in huge numbers. Many of our members are concerned and will wait until cases decrease dramatically or vaccine is available before returning. People are being logical and reasonable.

  • RGH May 28, 2020 (10:41 am)

    it’s a little shocking/disappointing how many people seems to think that it’s on Inslee to decide when conditions are right for progressing toward “reopening” and not, you know, on the actual conditions themselves. 

    • Um, No! May 28, 2020 (1:15 pm)

      No, it is SOLELY  on Inslee.   The data is the data and the conditions are the conditions.   It’s 100% and solely up to Inslee to decide what data and condition requirements/criteria need to be met before moving forward.    No one else, just Inslee.  He is the sole decider at this point and making the rules.  Doesn’t mean I have to agree with him but it is what it is.

  • anonyme May 28, 2020 (10:58 am)

    It’s a fact that this virus is related to climate change, so it should come as no surprise that climate deniers are also virus deniers.  There will be more pandemics as climate change worsens.  I’m glad at least a few politicians are paying attention to science, at least in that regard.  As far as religious observances go, if your god can’t hear you from home maybe you need a new god.

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