Seattle retailers have begun the second full week of operations under the Phase 2 safety protocol approved on June 19 by Governor Jay Inslee and state health officials. The Governor has said there must be a minimum of three weeks between reopening phases ending with full Phase 4 opening.
However, due to spikes in infection rates around the state, Inslee and state Health Secretary John Wiesman on Saturday put a hold on counties moving from Phase 3 to the final Phase 4 of the state’s “Safe Start plan.”
“The progress we’ve made thus far is at risk, therefore we are making the prudent choice to slow down our phased approach to reopening,” Wiesman wrote in a letter to state governmental leaders. “In the next couple of weeks, I will work with Governor Inslee and his team to assess the need for a modified approach for moving beyond Phase 3.”
The state’s four-phase opening process replaced the Stay Home Stay Healthy order that Inslee issued on March 23. That order required “non-essential” retailers to close statewide to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Phase 2 basically allows formerly non-essential retailers to welcome customers inside their stores so long as they don’t exceed 30% of the fire code occupancy limit (which excludes employees from the limit calculation). Social distancing must also be maintained in the store. Earlier, Seattle retailers operated under King County’s Phase 1.5, which limited customers to 15% of fire code limits. The Governor’s recovery plan is to gradually allow more customers inside stores unless virus infection rates and related factors prevent a return to normal operations.
Washington Retail maintains an extensive Retail Re-opening Resources page on its website to provide retailers with guidance on the reopening process.
The recovery steps are not limited to numbers of shoppers. They include recommendations on sanitation, regular hand-washing and social distancing at a minimum 6 feet of separation. Just last week, Inslee announced a statewide requirement for face coverings in public places, both indoor and outdoor. Violators are technically guilty of a misdemeanor, but Inslee has said he does not expect any enforcement to result from the order.
King County plans to distribute 25 million face masks in the coming months.