Washington state reportedly set to ban events larger than 250 people to slow COVID-19 spread

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a 2018 event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee plans to announce new restrictions on large events in the state to curb the spread of novel coronavirus, banning gatherings of more than 250 people, according to multiple reports.

Depending on the duration, the move could have implications for events ranging from the upcoming Seattle Mariners home opener on March 26 to major tech events scheduled for the spring.

Inslee will announce the ban at a news conference scheduled for Wednesday morning, according to reports by the Seattle Times, Everett Herald, Associated Press and KING5, quoting anonymous sources. The ban would be enacted in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, according to the reports. King County is home to Seattle and has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state.

A spokesperson for Inslee declined to confirm the reports Tuesday evening. A media alert for the news conference says Inslee will “announce new community strategies and social distancing plans in order to contain COVID-19.”

The move would follow voluntary steps taken by the state’s largest technology companies, which have canceled or pulled out of events this month and asked employees to telecommute if possible.

The fate of events a few months out is less clear. Microsoft Build, the annual developer conference that draws about 5,000 people to Seattle, is still scheduled for May 19-21. Sakura-Con’s website says the Seattle event will still take place April 10-12, and a Northwest Convention League directory lists several events in the Pacific Northwest that haven’t been canceled at this time.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opens a past Microsoft Build developer conference in Seattle. (GeekWire File Photo)

Inslee’s press conference is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Wednesday in Seattle. The executives of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, and mayors of Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma are expected to join him.

At least 190 people in Washington state have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Washington Department of Health. Inslee declared a state of emergency in Washington due to COVID-19 earlier this month.

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