Washington state officially opens for business

Jul 1, 2021
Written by Renée Sunde, President & CEO

Seventeen months after Washington State confirmed its first coronavirus case in Kirkland, the state has fully reopened its economy as of yesterday, June 30. It is a time of great celebration for retailers large and small as consumers continue to return to in-store shopping and the things they love.

“Washington has come a long way since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country was found in our state January 2020, and that is in no small part due to Washingtonians’ dedication and resilience in protecting themselves and their communities throughout the pandemic,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.

The Stay Home Stay Healthy order was supposed to span just two weeks when Washington reported around 2,200 COVID-19 cases. Since then, the state has reported more than 414,000 cases and nearly 6,000 deaths. The economy has not been fully open since March of 2020.

Little did we know that this initial action would lead to 15 months of shutdowns, gradual re-openings, and then further rollbacks. Regulations continually changed and evolved as retailers committed to keeping their employees, vendors, and customers safe. The industry experienced a holiday season like non-other where malls were forced to adapt to holiday festivities, and visits with Santa Claus were largely virtual. But, true to the industry, we continued to witness the creativity and innovation of retailers who prioritize the needs and values of their customers first and foremost.

Since May, all of the state’s 39 counties had been in the third phase of a four-stage reopening plan, with indoor capacity limited at 50% and no clear plan to move forward. Now, businesses across the state can once again resume normal operations.

So what is the future of retail post-pandemic? Retail’s future is bright as stores continue to adapt and recover through the remainder of the year. We will likely see the continued evolution of digital shoppers, but customers will also return to stores – looking to retailers as a place they want to be and hang out. Experiential retail will continue to evolve with more food and beverage to round out the shopping experience.

See below for additional details on guidance effective June 30:

Effective June 30, all industry sectors previously covered by guidance in the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery or the Safe Start Reopening Plan may return to usual capacity and operations, with limited exceptions for large indoor events.

Reopening guidance:

  • Vaccine verification/negative testing: Recommended but not required for large indoor and outdoor events
  • Capacity limitations: No restrictions in retail stores, restaurants, bars, stores, businesses, theaters, etc. (except large indoor events)
  • Physical distancing: No requirements
  • Facial coverings: Not required for vaccinated individuals, unless required by individual business
  • Travelers: Follow CDC recommendations

Requirements for places of employment issued by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries have been updated here.

The Secretary of Health’s mask order remains in place after June 30, and it directs unvaccinated people to continue to wear a face-covering in public indoor settings. Businesses and local authorities retain the right to set more restrictive mask requirements. The state department of health asks Washingtonians to “Respect the rules of the room you’re in.”

Regardless of vaccination status, all people are still required to wear masks in certain places, such as schools and health care settings. According to the Department of Health, in most other settings, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask.