Governor Jay Inslee this week permitted retailers in 10 additional counties to qualify for limited in-store sales under Phase 2 of his gradual reopening plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Inslee’s Safe Start plan, the new counties will become eligible if they have less than 10 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span.
The announcement offers hope to many retailers who had taken steps to operate safely while not having the chance to reopen for business after Inslee imposed a Stay Home Stay Healthy order that forced many retailers across the state to close for more than two months. Inslee has allowed stores in more rural counties to open first while his stay-home order issued on March 23 remains in place elsewhere through May 31.
The latest counties eligible to move to Phase 2 operations include Adams, Clark, Clallam, Island, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Thurston, San Juan and Spokane. The Governor had previously allowed other smaller rural counties to apply for permission to engage in limited in-store sales. The Governor’s latest announcement means that in total, 22 of 39 counties statewide could be eligible to reopen for limited retail sooner than his original reopening timetable.
Besides retailers, under Phase 2, other types of businesses that could reopen early include restaurants and various professional and personal services such as barbers, hairstylists and tattoo shops to attorneys, architects and IT professionals provided they have safety protocols in place. Retailers will not be allowed to exceed 30% of store capacity under Phase 2 protocols.
Washington Retail has worked closely with the Department of Commerce and Governor’s staff offering industry specific guidelines and a Safety Operational Plan for retailers. In a news conference last week with the Governor, Washington Retail CEO Renée Sunde expressed confidence that retailers across the state were getting prepared and are ready to allow limited in-store shopping.
A full list of state reopening guidelines can be reviewed here.
A third phase would permit gatherings of up to 50 people and the resumption of indoor sporting activities. Libraries and museums could reopen while bars would be permitted seating up to 25% capacity while movie theaters and indoor gyms could resume business at 50% capacity.
A fourth and final phase would allow resumption of most public gatherings such as concerts and larger sporting events, but social distancing measures would remain in place. Inslee has said he wants to maintain at least three weeks of space between allowing movement to a new phase of operation.
Sources: Governor’s Office, Seattle Times