Editorial: New restrictions unfair to Whidbey restaurants, bars

Whidbey Island’s restaurants, taverns and bars will have to take a step back under Gov. Jay Inslee’s newest changes to the state’s Safe Start Plan that go into effect Thursday.

State and local officials should look at allowing an exception for these establishments in Island County, since the rate of new COVID-19 infections are low and county health officials cannot point to any cases in which someone was infected at a bar or restaurant here.

If that doesn’t work, local government should be sure to ease up on restricting outdoor dining. Let businesses move into parking lots, streets and public green spaces, even if it means parking rules aren’t being followed.

With a surge in overall cases in the state, it’s understandable that Inslee is tightening restrictions and pushing more and more activities outside.

Recent evidence has shown that the virus is much less likely to spread outdoors, although nothing is conclusive when it comes to the coronavirus.

In fact, Inslee’s new rules don’t affect outdoor recreation.

Since Island County is in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, up to 50 people are allowed at outdoor recreation events. A baseball tournament over the weekend in Oak Harbor drew teams from all over since Island County is the only county in the region where it’s allowed.

The county has been in Phase 3 for more than a month.

In Phase 3, restaurants and taverns could open at 75 percent capacity and group up to 10 people per table. Bars could open at 25 percent capacity.

There was no mad rush to get into restaurants and taverns in Island County and the safety measures seemed to work well.

But that’s about to change.

Under the new rules — which county Public Health calls “guidance” for some reason — indoor tables at restaurants can only seat members of the same household, table size is limited to five people and total restaurant occupancy is reduced to 50 percent. Bars are closed to indoor service.

Beginning Thursday, those wanting to go out for a meal or a drink with friends should wear sunscreen and grab their sunglasses.

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