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Washington virus restrictions extended until Jan. 11

| December 30, 2020 12:40 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday extended restrictions on businesses and social gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic for another week.

Inslee said the restrictions are now due to expire Jan. 11.

“This choice is not easy,” Inslee said via Twitter. “Next week I’ll be announcing more details about our new plan to safely reopen.”

In mid-November Inslee, in responde to rising case numbers, announced a host of businesses must close their indoor services, including fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums. Retail stores — including grocery stores — were told to limit their indoor capacity to 25%.

Also, indoor social gatherings with people from more than one household are prohibited unless attendees have either quarantined for 14 days before the gathering or tested negative for COVID-19 and quarantined for seven days. There’s no enforcement mechanism for indoor get-togethers.

In other pandemic news, the Washington State Department of Corrections has started vaccinating some high-risk inmates and prison employees, putting them among the first recipients to receive the vaccine in the state.

Employees and inmates in a central Washington prison’s assisted-living ward, and medical staff and long-term care inmates in a Spokane County prison with the system’s largest current outbreak have been inoculated, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday.

Department officials said no general population inmates are receiving the vaccine at this time.

Questions about how to prioritize who receives the vaccine and when have been discussed across the country. Some have argued inmates are in cramped conditions that mimic those in long-term care facilities, but have been left off vaccine priority recommendations.

Washington has prioritized high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents and staff for its initial vaccination phase. Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, said certain prisoners and prison workers fit into those groups, but prisons “are not being prioritized.”

Staff and inmates in the assisted-living ward at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Franklin County have received the vaccine, department officials said. Vaccinations have also begun at the Spokane County Airway Heights Corrections Center, the site of the prison system’s largest outbreak.

It is unclear how many people have been vaccinated, or how many are scheduled for the current or future vaccination phases.