Just one year ago, as the 2020 Legislative Session ended, we were only beginning to understand how life in a pandemic might be different.
Since that time, our world has changed dramatically. Retailers across the state adjusted to a series of sometimes confusing and hard to follow safety protocols to stop the spread of coronavirus infections. For the most part, we’ve adjusted successfully and remained safe spaces to visit and shop.
The initial orders forced many non-essential businesses, most of them small, to close for weeks at great sacrifice, including too many who shuttered permanently. Those who could remain open invented new ways to deliver merchandise with curbside service or home delivery. They also became more digitally savvy as many stores were forced to survive solely on online advertising and sales.
Retailers have worked hard to respond to changing health metrics that have included monitoring hospital capacity; protecting the vulnerable aging population; lowering the mysterious R-naught number; slowing the rise in cases while encouraging testing and screening of the public.
In early January the state moved to a regional approach, tracking cases per 100,000 population, intensive care capacity and daily hospital admissions. Today all eight regions have successfully moved to Phase 2 – with no plan for what’s next.
We’ve learned a lot over the past 12 months but today, many stores that operated at 30% capacity a year ago now struggle with even tighter restrictions at 25% capacity.
We need a clear path forward. One that continues to focus on safety and continued economic recovery.
We need Governor Inslee to work with industry leaders to determine what Phase 3 of the recovery will look like.
The rapid pace of vaccine distribution developed over the past few months offers sellers and shoppers alike renewed hope that life will get easier and feel safer in the coming weeks and months. We’re making progress. We simply need a clear path forward.