Retail Re-opening Resources

For other COVID response resources for retailers and/or employers, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Guide.


Current COVID requirements affecting retail at the federal, state, and local levels

Federal Level:

  • January 10, 2022: Effective Monday, January 10 large businesses will need to comply with the federal vaccine mandate. WR has created this decision tree to help guide large businesses through the compliance process and is available free of charge to all employers. Download here: OSHA deadline and compliance information and compliance templates are available here:
  • September 13, 2021: President Biden announced a vaccine mandate requiring ALL employers with 100+ employees in their organization to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.
  • OSHA Rulemaking in progress:
    • Note: Washington state is not subject to OSHA’s rules. L&I is developing emergency rules based on Biden’s mandate independent of OSHA’s ETS development. However, L&I’s rules will be at least equivalent to or may go beyond the OSHA standard.
  • Deadline for vaccination: No date set yet for private-sector employees as rulemaking is still in progress. All federal employees are required to be vaccinated by November 22, 2021, according to Executive Order 14043
  • FAQs – To be determined in the rulemaking process
    • When will rules be published and what is the process for comments?
    • Who is responsible to cover the cost of tests? Employees or employers?
    • What are record-keeping requirements?
    • Exemption process?
    • Remedial measures for employers to take?
  • Several top retailers plan to sell rapid tests at cost, with over 10,000 pharmacies offering free testing.
  • *Updated Info 10/22/2021:


State Level:


Local Level – King County:

  • Protecting the safety and well-being of both employees and customers is paramount to ensuring we can open up our economy and keep businesses and communities thriving in the state of Washington. This is why the Washington Retail Association has joined forces with 10 other partner associations to launch the “Stay Safe, Stay Open” campaign to promote the importance of facial coverings as a tool to combat this virus. We encourage you to visit this campaign and share these useful promotional materials with your staff and customers. Together we can help save both lives and livelihoods in our state. Stay safe, stay open!
  • WR’s Retail COVID Safety Operational Plan and In-store Posters in English and Spanish will also help you prepare for each phase of your reopening.
  • In partnership with the Department of Labor & Industries for employer outreach and education, WR has created SAFEME COVID-19 training.  The goal being to assist you with new employee training or as a refresher course for any employee.  It is free and available anywhere at any time!     English   Español

When the entire retail sector is prepared to meet this challenge by giving consumers the assurance that reopening our economy is gradual and well-thought out, customers will come back with confidence.


Retail opening updates:

  • Feb. 16, 2022 – Governor Inslee announced in a press conference that the statewide in-door mask mandate will be ending on Monday, March 21. After this date all retailers and businesses can decide if they will enforce mask requirements on their own premises.

  • Aug. 18, 2021 – Governor Inslee announced that he is reissuing the statewide indoor mask mandate for all public spaces effective this coming Monday, August 23. The indoor mask mandate applies to all individuals and children over five years of age regardless of vaccination status. All public spaces across the state, including retail stores, malls, restaurants, grocery stores, and public-facing offices, are affected. The limited exemptions to this mandate include office spaces not easily accessible to the public where individuals are vaccinated and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt.
    • Proclamation 20-25 is amended to adopt the most recent face covering order issued by the Secretary of Health, Order 20-03.4. Under this order, every person in Washington must wear a face covering when they are in a place that is generally accessible to any person from outside their household, subject to specific exceptions and exemptions.
    • Proclamation 21-14 (Vaccination Requirement) is expanded to include all employees, on-site contractors and on-site volunteers at all public and private K-12 schools, public and private 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education, and early learning and child care programs serving children from multiple households.
  • June 29, 2021 – Governor Inslee releases a statement and updated guidance for the June 30 reopening. Updated L&I requirements can be found here.
  • May 21, 2021 – Governor Inslee and L&I released updated guidance for employers that align with the new CDC guidelines adopted by the Governor on May 13.
    • Here are some links and important details:
      • Updated COVID-19 Facial Covering Guidance for Employers and Businesses (Guidance from Governor’s Office)
      • Mask and Distancing Requirements Are Changing (L&I Requirements)
        • Fully vaccinated employees do not have to wear a mask or socially distance at work, unless their employer or local public health agency still requires it
        • Before ending mask and social distance requirements, employers must confirm workers are fully vaccinated — by having the worker either sign a document attesting to their status or provide proof of vaccination
        • Employers must be able to demonstrate they have verified vaccination status for workers who are not masked or physically distanced. Verifications methods may include: –
        • Creating a log of workers who have verified they’ve been vaccinated and the date of verification, –
        • Checking vaccination status each day as workers enter a jobsite, –
        • Marking a worker’s badge or credential to show that they are vaccinated, or –
        • Other methods demonstrating an employer has verified worker vaccination status may also meet the standard
        • When verifying an employee’s vaccine status, acceptable documentation includes a CDC vaccination card, a photo of the card, documentation from a health care provider, a signed attestation from the worker, or documentation from the state immunization information system.
      • The Governor also updated the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan with a new proclamation after his announcement that all counties would be in Phase 3 effective May 18, and the state will be fully reopening on June 30. In addition, a new ‘Safe Workers’ proclamation was issued that requires employers to provide flexible options for worker vaccination.
  • May 13, 2021 – Governor Inslee announces the state will fully reopen on June 30 and possibly sooner if 70% of those 16 and older get their first vaccination in the coming weeks. The Governor also announced that all counties will be in Phase 3 on May 18, including Pierce, Cowlitz, Whitman and Ferry counties which had been in Phase 2.
  • May 4, 2021 – Governor Inslee announces a two-week pause on the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan. Under the pause, every county will remain in its current phase. At the end of two weeks, each county will be re-evaluated. Currently, all counties are in Phase 3 with the exceptions of Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman counties which rolled back to Phase 2 on April 16, and Ferry county which voluntarily rolled back to Phase 2 on April 30.
  • April 28, 2021 – Small Business Tax Credit for employee’s COVID vaccinations: this is practically an expansion of the federal emergency FMLA which provides tax credit for employers who offer COVID related sick and family leave. The leave now includes recovery after vaccinations. Even those who are self-employed can claim this credit under the American Rescue Plan. Resources: the US Chamber Fact Sheet, and the White House Fact Sheet, the IRS tax credit info
  • April 12, 2021 – Governor Inslee announces 3 counties are moving back to Phase 2 for not meeting the new Healthy Washington criteria. Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman counties will be rolling back to Phase 2 effective Friday, April 16. The next evaluation will be in three weeks on May 3. In response to this announcement, a coalition of nearly 70 employers from across the state including WR sent a letter on April 9 requesting the Governor delay these new restrictions.
  • March 31, 2021 – Governor Jay Inslee announced the expansion of vaccine eligibility. Effective April 15 all Washingtonians over the age of 16 will be eligible for vaccination. The Governor was joined by Secretary of Health Dr. Shah who also announced the PhaseFinder tool that was set up a few weeks ago to determine eligibility for vaccines, would now be replaced with a new Vaccine Locator tool.
  • March 17, 2021 – Guidelines for Phase 3 retail are released which take effect Monday, March 22.
  • March 11, 2021 – Governor Inslee announces Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery Plan will return to a county-by-county evaluation process and that all counties are moving to Phase 3 effective Monday, March 22. This means restaurants, fitness centers, other indoor spaces and retailers will open up to 50% capacity. Read more.
  • March 10, 2021 – New Pandemic Guides and Resources:
  • Feb. 24, 2021 – Governor Inslee announces a pause on phased reopening until further notice. All regions will remain in Phase 2 with no regions moving backward to Phase 1.
  • Feb. 14, 2021 – All 8 regions are now eligible for Phase 2 per Governor Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery Plan. In-store retail remains at 25% capacity with no clear steps announced for increased capacity.
  • Jan. 28, 2021 – Governor Inslee announces the Puget Sound & West regions are moving into Phase 2 effective Monday, February 1 per his updated Roadmap to Recovery. This change will allow for restaurants in these counties to reopen indoor dining at 25% capacity through 11 p.m. Indoor fitness centers and live entertainment venues — including museums, bowling alleys and concert halls — can also reopen to 25% capacity. Bars that don’t serve food, however, must remain closed. In-store retail remains at 25% capacity for both Phases 1 & 2 with no clear steps announced for increased capacity.
  • Jan. 27, 2021 – Retail industry related vaccination guidance from CDC can be found here:
  • Jan. 6, 2021 -The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has released guidance for the next and following phases of COVID-19 vaccination. The department has finalized priorities for who can obtain vaccinations after addressing the top priority for health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. This graphic shows the various groups of people and occupations for vaccinations to be administered through the balance of the year. The next phase includes people 70 years old or older or people 50 years old or older living in a multi-generational household. Health providers and industry groups have been awaiting the priorities to prepare for when vaccine supplies become available. Read more.
  • Jan. 5, 2021 – Governor Inslee announces a new 2-Phase recovery plan called “Healthy Washington” in which reopenings will no longer be based on county-by-county status but rather the state is now broken out into eight healthcare regions. Each region must meet four healthcare metrics in order to move into the next phase. At this time no regions qualify for Phase 2. Retail remains at 25% capacity statewide with no changes to requirements. This plan takes effect on January 11.
  • December 2020 COVID Relief – a revised guide from the US Chamber of Commerce explaining changes made to the PPP, EIDL, Employee Retention Tax  Credit, and other programs. The Emergency FMLA (passed under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act) is also extended, but offering is now optional for employers per this FFCRA article by the National Law Review. Additional articles on Employee Retention Tax Credit and a summary of the whole Federal COVID Relief Bill passed.
  • Effective Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 12:01 a.m. thru Monday, Dec. 14: Governor Inslee announced new restrictions on businesses including a reduction on all statewide in-store retail to 25% capacity. See the full list of restrictions.
  • Oct. 26 – NRF Foundation adds two new credentialed RISE Up courses;  COVID-19 Retail Operations and COVID-19 Customer Conflict Prevention.  More information on these and other RISE Up offerings can be found here.
  • Oct. 19 – Regional small businesses assistance and grants now available
  • Effective Oct. 13 – The Governor announces 5 counties (Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Douglas and Chelan) are moving from modified Phase 1.5 to Phase 2 bringing the total to 22 counties in Phase 2.
  • Effective Oct. 6 – Governor Inslee announces updates to his Safe Start plan and additional guidance for restaurants, movie theaters, libraries, youth/adult sports and real estate activities. There is also guidance issued for retail events and craft shows in Phase 3 counties.
  • September 21 – The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) published guidance for jurisdictions and retailers to use a risk-based approach in reopening bulk and self-service displays within the retail food industry.
  • Effective Sept. 9 – The City of Seattle has shifted its temporary face coverings rule into a permanent rule for the remainder of the pandemic.
  • Effective Aug. 27 – The 5 counties currently in modified Phase 1 which include Benton, Franklin, Chelan, Douglas and Yakima counties will now be at 30% capacity for in-store retail per the Governor’s updated guidance released on Aug. 26. This now means that all in-store retail statewide is at 30% capacity since Phases 2 & 3 were already operating at these levels.
  • Effective July 20 – A new 10-person limit on social gatherings for Phase 3 counties will be imposed. This does not apply to businesses or retail stores. See the Governor’s announcement.
  • Governor announces pause on all counties moving to the next phase of reopening until July 28.
  • Effective July 7 – Governor Inslee announced the extension of the Safe Start proclamation until August 6. Businesses statewide are required to enforce facial coverings on their premises per the Department of Health Secretary’s order issued June 26.
  • For tips on facial covering conversations with customers, see de-escalating article here.
  • Governor Inslee announces statewide facial covering mandate to take effect on Friday, June 26. Read full memo.
  • The Governor has also issued a separate proclamation specific to Yakima county due to the very high rates of infection in that region.
  • Resources for employers to balance implementing Labor and Industries’ new emergency COVID guidance and disabilities accommodation requirements.
  • Safe Start Washington: Phased Reopening County-by-County – as of June 8, face coverings are required for all employees with exceptions. For additional guidance, you may consult Labor and Industries’ COVID-19 Common Questions regarding Worker Face Covering and Mask Requirements.
  • Issued June 5 – The Governor has released a template for Phase 3 Businesses
  • Governor Inslee has released a memo and a set of guidelines for the pet grooming industry.
  • The Governor has opened Phase 1 – Curbside retail effective May 8.  See Phase 1 requirements.
  • Effective May 13 Governor Inslee also released requirements for Phase 2 operations.
  • Effective May 26, 2020, previously authorized retail must implement all requirements under Phase 2 In Store Retail.

Re-opening Education Series (upcoming and/or recordings):

Navigating employee leave options: Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) and COVID Expanded Leaves Webinar recording and presentation

Paid leave options have expanded due to COVID. Employers will do well to not only understand the requirements. This presentation offers a side-by-side comparison of the state and federal expanded COVID leaves based on rules and legislation passed.


Safe Re-opening Tips and Best Practices  Webinar recording and presentation

For retailers who are about to enter Phase II (Limited In-Store) opening, you will learn tips and best practices from retail and safety experts, including marketing after COVID and practical operating experience during COVID. You will gain insights into making the Retail COVID Safety Operational Plan real to build employee and customer confidence.


Retail Doctor explains how to reopen your store
Watch the video here.

Retail consultant Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, is sharing a short video to help retailers reopen from the coronavirus pandemic with the right attitude and strategy.

Phibbs’ premise is straightforward: he said COVID-19 was a “seismic shock” to the trust customers used to have with retailers. Store owners must win back their customers’ trust to survive the pandemic, he explains in his video.

In short, Phibbs advises:

  • Retrain your employees to project hope, not fear or discomfort, with shoppers.
  • The key to recovery will be sales approached creatively, not passively. Employees must hone interpersonal skills that can increase sales, not passivity that passes up opportunities to help shoppers make discoveries they did not plan before they came into the store.
  • Don’t be intimidated that online sales threaten your store’s chances for recovery. Phibbs says owners, managers and employees must make their store the hub of their brands, not the ugly stepchild of an online competitor.