Bill would speed reopening of businesses during a pandemic

Feb 5, 2021
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Written by Washington Retail
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Washington Retail is supporting Senate bill 5114 that would speed the safe reopening of businesses statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill also would shift authority for the state’s reopening strategy from the Democrat Governor to the Legislature, where Democrats control the House and Senate. Many business leaders and legislators have been calling for such a change, saying that the Governor’s emergency protocols are too strict and have caused too much economic damage. Go here to join a campaign in support of the bill.

Nearly 1,500 citizens, business owners and associations registered their support for the bill at a January 20 Senate committee hearing.

Under the bipartisan bill, the state would immediately move into the less restrictive Phase 2 of Governor Inslee’s pandemic recovery plan. Last week, effective on February 1, Inslee relaxed reopening requirement for restaurants, bowling alleys, museums, gyms and concert halls in seven Washington counties and moved those counties to Phase 2 of his two-phase recovery plan. The affected counties are King, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Pacific and Grays Harbor. Bars that don’t serve food must remain closed under Inslee’s latest move.

Inslee also announced that regions in the state have to show progress in three of four health metrics to advance to Phase 2. Prior to his announcement, regions had to show progress for all four metrics.

They are:

  • A decreasing trend in the 14-day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100K population
  • A decreasing trend in the 14-day rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100K population
  • Average 7-day percent occupancy of ICU staffed beds of less than 90%; and,
  • A 7-day percent positivity of COVID-19 tests less than 10%

The state Department of Health will now evaluate and update progress every two weeks instead of every week on its online dashboard.

Senate bill 5114 would allow restaurants to operate at 25% of indoor capacity statewide. At present, businesses throughout most of the state are under the more restrictive Phase 1 category, which prohibits indoor dining in most restaurants and limits retail business operations to 25% of store capacity. The Governor’s action last week left retail occupancy requirements at no more than 25% of store sales space statewide.

As of this writing, Inslee had not announced any plan to open retail stores to more customers.

Washington Retail is following the bill carefully and will report on its progress during the 105-day Legislative Session.

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