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Inslee urges Washingtonians to ‘rethink’ holiday plans as state examines ways to stop COVID-19 spread

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 12, 2020

Gov. Jay Inslee sits at his desk and rehearses a speech Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia, minutes before going live to address the public on Washington’s steps in addressing the coronavirus outbreak.  (Ted S. Warren)
Gov. Jay Inslee sits at his desk and rehearses a speech Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia, minutes before going live to address the public on Washington’s steps in addressing the coronavirus outbreak. (Ted S. Warren)

OLYMPIA – Washington residents thinking of a big Thanksgiving celebration should think again and scale back plans for holiday gatherings in the coming weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee advised Thursday.

They can also expect some further restrictions to be announced next week to help slow the spread of COVID-19, which he said is hitting Washington with a new wave of exponential growth in cases. It’s a position as dangerous as the state faced in March, when it was one of the early epicenters of the pandemic.

“We have to rethink this holiday so that we may be thankful we don’t lose more lives to COVID,” Inslee said in a televised address to state residents. “We are optimistic that Thanksgiving 2021 will be the best ever.”

This year, people can be thankful that more therapeutics to treat the virus are being developed and a vaccine is imminent, he said. Even though there is more available to fight the virus than when the pandemic began, “it’s just too dangerous to gather together indoors, where the virus can spread so easily,” he added.

Don’t gather with people outside your household unless everyone has successfully quarantined for 14 days, Inslee advised. That time period would have started Thursday for Thanksgiving.

Inslee was joined by his wife, Trudi, who said their family has Thanksgiving Day traditions they cherish every year. This year, however, they will be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas virtually.

“We are all fatigued, and it’s OK not to feel OK,” she said.

In the address, which lasted less than 7 minutes, the Inslees thanked essential workers, and seniors who have been isolated by the virus.

While the speech was limited to actions people can take in their homes, Inslee also signaled that new restrictions were coming.

“In the next few days we will be announcing some further measures to prevent this from spreading,” he said. “Every idea is on the table right now, except for the idea of failing to contain this virus.”

Earlier in the day, Inslee’s staff said in an email that state officials are talking to business leaders and others about possible restrictions that could limit how often people come into contact with others outside their home as a way to reduce the spread and “prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed.”

While Washington officials are considering new restrictions, other states and cities are already moving ahead with renewed efforts to control the virus.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that school systems in Detroit, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis are giving up on in-person classes. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on residents to cancel Thanksgiving gatherings, limit social gatherings to 10 people and, starting Monday, to stay home except for essentials like work or getting groceries.

Minnesota and New York have ordered bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m. Wisconsin residents have been advised to stay home. Utah put a statewide mask mandate in place and Indiana extended its mask rule another month. In New Jersey, cities and towns were given the authority to require nonessential businesses to close after 8 p.m.

State and national health officials have already recommended that Washington residents limit holiday gatherings. The advice hasn’t affected sales of Thanksgiving staples like turkeys, local stores reported, although it may be changing the size of the orders.

Dan Englehart, co-owner of Sonnenberg’s Market and Deli, said he ordered turkeys based on last year’s numbers and hasn’t seen much change.

Some may be ordering smaller turkeys, but others may be ordering larger birds because they are eating more meals at home and stocking up on supplies, he said.

“We are anticipating a bigger demand on smaller birds,” said Ray Sprinkle, chief executive officer of URM Stores, Inc., which includes Rosauers, Super 1, Yoke’s Fresh Markets and Huckleberry’s.

The frozen turkeys were ordered in April, Sprinkle said. Fresh turkeys will be ordered based on customer demand.

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