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Washington state and San Francisco are banning large gatherings as coronavirus spreads

Washington state and San Francisco are banning large gatherings to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. The bans are a way to create social distancing, which may help people avoid coming into contact with others who might be sick.

Gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle area are prohibited through the end of March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced. Gatherings of more than 1,000 people will be banned in San Francisco for two weeks, according to the office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

“This order applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities,” said Inslee’s announcement about Washington’s ban. “These include but are not limited to: community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers and similar activities.”

Washington’s ban covers Seattle and its surrounding areas: King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. Washington currently has more than 260 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which is the highest number in the US, and of the 24 confirmed deaths, many of them have been in or near Seattle. It’s “very highly likely” that the ban will be extended beyond March, Inslee said in a news conference.

The state’s ban, if it is still in place, may affect Microsoft’s Build developer conference, which is currently scheduled to take place in Seattle from May 19th–21st. Microsoft says it’s “monitoring public health guidance in relation to in-person events” in a notice posted to the Build website, but people can still register for the event. Microsoft declined to comment. Microsoft, Amazon, and other tech companies with offices in Seattle have asked their employees to work from home.

San Francisco’s ban also affects sporting events like Golden State Warriors games. The team announced that it will play upcoming home games without fans. Events scheduled through March 21st at the Chase Center, the stadium where the Warriors play, have been postponed or moved to a new location.

Other places across the US have banned gatherings or recommended they be canceled. Santa Clara County — where Apple, Google, Netflix, and other tech companies are headquartered — banned gatherings of 1,000 people or more on Monday. The Washington, DC Department of Health recommended today that “non-essential” mass gatherings of 1,000 or more be postponed or canceled. And in response to an outbreak in New York, the state created a “containment area” with a one-mile radius in New Rochelle on Monday. Schools, churches, and synagogues will be closed, and large indoor gatherings will be banned.