On May 4, 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee extended the Stay Home — Stay Healthy order through May 31, 2020, and issued the state’s Safe Start plan that sets out the criteria for reopening Washington in phases so as to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 (coronavirus). Phase 1 of reopening began May 5 and if specific criteria are met, Phase 2 will begin around June 1. Here’s what you need to know:
Ongoing employer requirements: During all phases, employers must continue to maintain physical distancing, ensure adequate sanitation and hygiene, clean and disinfect the workplace frequently, consider personal protective equipment when possible, and implement processes for dealing with employees with COVID-19 or its symptoms.
Criteria that must be met before advancing to any phase: In addition to the ongoing requirements for employers, each phase will last for a minimum of three weeks before moving on to the next phase. Specific criteria must be met prior to moving to the next phase. This includes a requirement to have a downward trend or very low numbers of COVID-19 illnesses and hospital admissions and for the health care system to be able to treat all patients without operating in crisis mode. The following small counties not as heavily impacted by COVID-19 may request a variance from the order from the State Department of Health and move more quickly to the next phase: Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kittitas, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, and Wahkiakum. The governor is hopeful that more counties will be added to that list as the number of positive COVID-19 illnesses decrease.
Phase 1 (tentatively May 5 – May 31): Essential businesses can continue operating. Fishing, hunting, playing golf, and visiting state parks and lands during daylight hours is allowed. Newly added businesses allowed to operate include retail curbside pickup, automobile sales, car washes, landscaping services, and drive-in spiritual services with one household per vehicle. All employers that are allowed to operate must establish protocols to ensure the safety of employees, vendors, or anyone else at the worksite. Among other steps outlined by the governor, employers must maintain at least six feet of physical distance between people and provide adequate sanitation and personal hygiene. The state is still encouraging individuals who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 to self-quarantine during this phase, so you should identify how you’ll accommodate them when telework isn’t possible. People at high risk include those 65 and older, as well as people of any age with certain serious underlying medical conditions. You should also minimize non-essential travel. You may require everyone in the workplace to wear face coverings (and the state encourages this).
Phase 2 (tentatively June 1 – June 21): Additional businesses eligible to reopen include any remaining manufacturing businesses that haven’t reopened, new construction, in-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), retail (in-store purchases allowed with restrictions), real estate, professional services/office-based businesses, hair and nail salons/barbers, and restaurants (with less than 50 percent capacity and no more than five customers at a table). The requirements in Phase 1 for all businesses that are allowed to operate must continue, meaning you must encourage telework, enforce physical distancing, ensure personal protections and sanitation are feasible, and limit non-essential travel. Gatherings and all outdoor recreation involving fewer than five people outside the household per week may occur. Individuals who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 are encouraged to continue to self-quarantine at home.
Phase 3 (tentatively June 22 – July 12): Additional businesses eligible to reopen, provided the requirements in Phases 1 and 2 are met, include restaurants (less than 75 percent capacity and no more than 10 customers to a table), bars (less than 25 percent capacity), indoor gyms (less than 50 percent capacity), movie theaters (less than 50 percent capacity), government offices, libraries, museums, and all other business activities not yet listed except for nightclubs and events with greater than 50 people. Non-essential travel, gatherings of no more than 50, outdoor group recreation (no greater than 50 people), and recreation facilities (no greater than 50 people) may resume. Individuals who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 are encouraged to continue to self-quarantine at home.
Phase 4 (tentatively July 13 – August 4): All businesses are open and all worksites can be staffed as needed, while continuing to practice good physical distancing and personal hygiene. Non-essential travel may continue and social interactions with physical distancing, social gatherings, and all recreational activities may resume. Large venues, bars, and nightclubs may operate with limited capacity to maintain social distancing. Individuals who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 are encouraged to resume public interactions, with physical distancing.
Tips For Employers: Refer to the state’s coronavirus web page for the latest information on Washington’s rollout of normal activities. Also check out the business checklist developed by Challenge Seattle and the Washington Roundtable, which is referenced in the governor’s Safe Start plan, and the state’s web page on what’s open and closed. Questions about reopening? Contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.