As COVID cases rise, businesses respond to new state restrictions

As COVID-19 case numbers continue to increase sharply across the county and state, Whidbey Island has also been experiencing an escalation of the virus.

At the same time, businesses on Whidbey will once again have to adjust to new statewide restrictions that shut down inside service in bars and restaurants, prohibit social gatherings and restrict many other indoor operations.

Gov, Jay Inslee announced the temporary rules Sunday. Most of them went into effect after midnight Monday. The restrictions affecting restaurants will begin after midnight Wednesday.

As of Monday, Island County has 501 cases. This is an increase of 62 cases in one week, which means the county is far from meeting its goal of 25 cases per 100,000.

Island County Public Health Director Keith Higman said there are currently no outbreaks being investigated within the county.

The most common route of transmission of the virus has been people attending social gatherings with others outside of their household, he said.

The new restrictions don’t just affect businesses. They prohibit indoor social gatherings with people outside of a single household and limit outdoor gatherings to five people outside of a household.

Religious ceremonies are limited to 25 percent capacity inside or no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer.

Weddings and funerals must have no more than 30 people in attendance. Long-term care facilities can have outdoor visitors only, with exceptions for essential support and end-of-life care.

Restaurants and bars are closed to indoor service but can still have outdoor dining and take-out. Retail businesses must limit capacity to 25 percent occupancy.

Movie theaters (not including drive-ins), bowling alleys, gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums are all required to cease indoor operations, meaning many will be closing.

The governor’s order went into effect this week and will expire Dec. 14, although county public health officials are predicting that the order will most likely be extended further into the holiday season.

Higman said one suggestion has been made that the governor’s restrictions should be extended until after the holiday season in January.

Whidbey businesses are again pivoting to adhere to the restrictions.

Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Graham said the new restrictions will have a financial impact, but that local business owners will be thinking “outside of the box” as they have been doing all year.

“We know they’re going to continue with their take-out,” she said about restaurant owners.

“We have already reached out to our restaurant members to ask them if they’re changing their hours or doing something different.”

Despite the challenges of this year, businesses in Coupeville have done well and avoided closures. Lynda Eccles, the executive director for the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce, said the restaurants have been doing well with their to-go menus.

“We are also making adjustments to our virtual shopping website to support our businesses and restaurants in any way we can,” Eccles said.

Inge Morascini, executive director for the Langley Chamber of Commerce, said the restaurants are “pretty well set.”

Most of them have covered outdoor seating thanks to the tents which were paid for by the Whidbey Island Association of Realtors.

They will also continue serving take-out meals.

Retail businesses will be exploring the use of QR codes in shop windows, curbside and home deliveries, she added.

The three chambers are in the process of creating “shop local” campaigns for the holiday season.

WhidbeyHealth has been taking its own measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. According to a press release, the West Wind Cafe is only open to employees and patients and the hospital’s gift shop is closed to all but is offering “curbside pick-up” services.

No visitors or support persons are allowed for the emergency department, surgical services, MAC, rehab services, respiratory therapy, lab, diagnostic imaging or primary care, specialty care or walk-in clinics.

The medical/surgical inpatient department, the intensive care unit and the family birth place are not allowing visitors, but one support person is acceptable.

Minors are able to have one support person during treatments. Certified doulas are also able to be present during a birth.

More in News

Public feedback on proposed Port of Coupeville tax levy remains positive

The port will continue taking public comments through Oct. 22.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
“Island Spirit” is back home on Southeast Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor.
‘Island Spirit’ sculpture returns to Pioneer Way

The bronze statue had been missing since late 2019 when it was taken out in an accident.

Town of Coupeville to hold hearing on proposed utility rate hike on Sept. 28

Coupeville utility rates might be increasing soon, and the town council wants to hear your input.

Photo provided
This photo of bear tracks on the beach was captured near Randall Point in Clinton last week.
Tracks indicate bear may still be on island

The bear nicknamed “Whidbey the Pooh” appears to be sticking around longer than expected.

WhidbeyHealth Community Pharmacy opened in Coupeville on Sept. 21. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)
Hospital district opens new pharmacy in Coupeville

Coupeville hasn’t had a retail pharmacy in town since Linds Pharmacy closed more than six years ago.

Whidbey Island schools have seen only a few ‘devious licks’ copycats

A viral TikTok challenge has touched Whidbey, but the trend was short-lived.

Burn bans eased

A return to wet, cooler weather means campers and s’mores enthusiasts can spark up fires once again.

Shane Hoffmire, left, and Joel Servatius, right, are vying for a seat on Oak Harbor City Council. Hoffmire received Mayor Bob Severns’ first public endorsement of his political career over Servaitus, the incumbent.
Oak Harbor mayor endorses newcomer over incumbent

Bob Severns endorsed Shane Hoffmire, who is challenging Councilmember Joel Servatius in November.

A copy of City Attorney Grant Weed’s notice of his intent to terminate his contract with the city of Oak Harbor early. Weed and Assistant City Attorney and Public Records Officer Anna Thompson told the mayor the same day of their plans to stop working with the Oak Harbor.
Oak Harbor legal staff leaving, citing ‘compromised’ working relationships

The two key people in Oak Harbor’s legal department resigned from their positions on the same day.

Most Read