UPDATE | JUNE 2, 2020
On June 1st King County said it had not not yet submitted its application for the modified phase (1.5) of the Safe Start reopening plan. The county said one submitted, it will likely take several days for state approval. More updates will be provided once the application process is underway.
In the meantime, King County businesses and residents remain in phase 1 of Washington’s 4-phase economic reopening plan.
Governor Inslee said Washington State’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order will expire on May 31st. Counties will then be charged with monitoring metrics required to move between reopening phases and then applying for state approval to progress through the 4-stage Safe Start Plan.
In a May 29th press conference, Governor Inslee announced the state’s new county-by-county Safe Start approach as it continues to slowly reopen while working to suppress the spread of COVID-19. Counties will have more flexibility to demonstrate they can safely allow additional economic activity based on targeted metrics.
Washington counties will start June 1st in their current phase of the reopening plan. Three weeks are still required between each phase. Over the past month, 26 or the states’s 39 counties were granted variances to move to phase 2 early.
Inslee outlined key indicators metrics and the associated targets each county would work to achieve before moving between phases. One strict target – less than 10 new COVID-19 cases for 14 days per 100,000 residents – was greatly relaxed. That target number was raised to 25 under the governor’s updated plan. King County was at 28 on May 27th.
The governor said counties that remain in phase one can request to add in allowed phased 2 activities, as long as they show it can be done safely. He referred to this as a phase 1.5.
He also announced that starting on June 8th all employees across the state would be required to wear face coverings/masks at work, except when not interacting with others. Employers will provide those face coverings.
Shortly after Insee’s press conference wrapped, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his office would be applying to move to a modified phase 2, allowing limited or modified openings for several business sectors and personal activities.
According to a news release, King County has not yet met key criteria to enter Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan, citing unstable virus case counts. It will continue monitoring progress over the course of two weeks, and if metrics are more stable and meeting the state’s criteria, more businesses and activities will reopen in accordance with Phase 2.
King County’s modified approach, includes the partial re-opening of the following businesses and activities:
- Recreation and fitness (Only allowed outdoor with 5 — not including the instructor — or fewer people outside of household)
- Gatherings (Only allowed outdoor of 5 or fewer people outside the household)
- Additional construction as outlined in Phase 2 guidance
- Manufacturing operations, as outlined in Phase 2 guidance
- Real estate at 25 percent of building occupancy and indoor services limited to 30 minutes
- In-store Retail – 15 percent of building occupancy and indoor services limited to 30 minutes
- Personal Services at 25 percent of building occupancy
- Professional services at 25 percent of building occupancy and indoor services limited to 30 minutes for customers
- Photography, as outlined in Phase 2 guidance
- Pet grooming at 25 percent of building occupancy
- Restaurants – No indoor dining allowed with outdoor dining is permitted but seating at 50 percent of existing outdoor capacity.
In the Friday press conference Constantine said officials would know quickly if their application is approved, saying it shouldn’t take more than a few days to get a decision from the state.
The state is expected to release applications for modified re-opening requests this weekend. King County anticipates submitting its application early next week (June 1st week). According to a source with knowledge of the variance process, the state has typically been approving county variance requests within 24-72 hours.
On May 27, Seattle/King County Public Health released a new Key Indicators dashboard, with targets that help inform reopening decisions. Based on trends toward all the targets, public health officials and policymakers believe these openings, done safely, will enable needed economic activity while also protecting and managing the spread of COVID-19.
According to King County, “With the limited re-opening, maintaining the safety principles that led to the success against the outbreak has never been more important. These include continuing to practice physical distancing of 6 feet or more, minimizing contact with others outside the home, frequent hand washing or sanitizer, use of cloth face coverings in public, and avoiding group gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces.”
Increased testing is available in King County, and officials ask that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms seek a test immediately. Health officials say testing as soon as possible after symptoms appear is important to virus spread. Public Health’s COVID-19 website has more information about the testing and locations.
King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin commented, “Working together, King County residents have made real progress in decreasing the number of COVID-19 cases and the burden on our healthcare system, allowing us to move forward cautiously at this time. The virus continues to circulate widely and most of us remain susceptible. With increased activities at work and other settings, there will be more opportunities for the virus to spread, so it’s absolutely essential that we sustain significant changes in how we go about our lives for the foreseeable future.”