Inslee releases details of Safe Start — Washington’s phased reopening by county

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday the expansion of Safe Start — Washington’s Phased Reopening plan. The expansion comes as the current Stay Home, Stay Healthy order ends midnight Sunday.

The expansion moves Washington through the phased reopening on a county-by-county basis. With this new approach, counties will have more flexibility to demonstrate they can safely allow additional economic activity based on targeted metrics.

“We are able to do this thanks to millions of Washingtonians pulling together, in the face of sacrifice and suffering, and doing their part by staying home,” Inslee said during a press conference Friday. “But this does not mean that we are returning to normal. It means that after three months, we are successfully moving forward.”

Starting on June 1, any county can apply to John Wiesman, secretary of Washington State Department of Health, to move to the next phase from the phase that they are currently in. The application process will include target metrics set by the secretary and must be submitted by the county executive for review.

As of Thursday, 26 counties have been approved to move to Phase 2. Counties in Phase 2 must be in that phase for a minimum of three weeks before becoming eligible for Phase 3 variance. The earliest any county could move to Phase 3 would be June 3.

In this new approach, counties will now have more flexibility and the ability to apply to the secretary of health to demonstrate they can safely allow additional economic activity based on metrics and a holistic review of their COVID-19 activity and ability to respond.

These metrics are being taken in whole, and the goals here are targets, not necessarily requirements. Each will be evaluated in total.

The secretary may approve a county moving in whole to the next phase, or may only approve certain activities in the next phase. This new option, for counties in Phase 1 who do not meet Phase 2 criteria, would allow variance to enter a “modified” Phase 1. This would allow some Phase 2 activities to begin in those jurisdictions.

The same option is available for counties in Phase 2 that may not be fully ready for Phase 3, allowing for increased economic activity but sustained health and safety protections.

Conversely, counties may identify when they need to return to an earlier phase, and the secretary has the authority to return a county to an earlier phase if the county chooses not to do so on its own and the secretary has identified a need to do so.

The order is set to expire at midnight on July 1, 2020. Read the full plan here.

Facial Coverings

Inslee also announced new safety and health requirements for businesses operating in Washington’s “Safe Start” plan.

The announcement brings together general requirements for all business operations, including essential businesses operating outside of industry-specific guidance, and includes new requirements for facial coverings.

Beginning June 8, all employees will be required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction. Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under the Department of Labor and Industries’ safety and health rules and guidance. Refer to Coronavirus Facial Covering and Mask Requirements for additional details. Employees may choose to wear their own facial coverings at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements.

Employers must also post signage at their place of business strongly encouraging customers to wear cloth facial coverings. Businesses are encouraged to require customers to wear cloth facial coverings, in order to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Inslee stressed the importance of wearing cloth facial coverings in public as business activity increases in the state.

“Wearing a mask is strongly encouraged in most circumstances to protect the health of our communities,” Inslee said. “As we start to increases in travel, recreation, and economic activity, it is critical that we remain diligent in order to avoid a sharp increase in exposure. We will continue to closely monitor disease data to determine whether additional steps are needed to protect public health.”

  1. I’m so happy to see that employees of businesses must wear a face covering and that customers will be strongly encouraged to also cover their faces in close proximity to others. For those of you opposed to coving your face to protect yourself and others because it violates your freedom…think of it as doing your good deed for the day, a random act of kindness or paying it forward in a positive way. It’s just so simple. Compassion, consideration and kindness for others will get us through this.

  2. Melissa while I agree with this in the near term I wonder how many would have supported the same level of mask use two years ago during flu season and now every year going forward. After all it will save lives just like this time. I also wonder how comfortable people are that the state changed the metric on how many new positives so that Snohomish, King and Pierce can have a better chance to phase forward on June 1st.

    1. Others have said we already have up to 100,000 in Snohomish County safe from CV19 by looking at the metrics. That would suggest if CV has been around for 5 months the infection rate is 20,000 per month. Some have discussed “herd” as 60-70%. That makes the SC herd around 500,000. That would suggest we might be a herd in 25 months. As a member still standing in the most vulnerable group, that’s a long time to stay at home.

      By years end we may have some partially effective vaccines that have not killed monkeys or the human test subjects. By years end we may have the SC herd at 200,000 so we would need to get around 300,000 doses of vaccine to round out the herd. Projected to the national level that would be a lot of vaccine.

      It might be good for us to think about how we are going to ration the vaccine who want it. Hopefully we will not you the supply and demand model to do the rationing.

  3. I have the freedom to not infect others now or during flu season. I know the symptoms for flu and I know that I am partially protected with vaccine. We have always known but seldom set into place plans to not give the flu to folks in care facilities. Not my statement but others have said “they are going to die anyway so the extra precautions are not necessary” We can prevent flu from impacting the folks in care facilities just as we can do the same thing with CV19. We just do not do it. It would also be my freedom to suggest a law that says that if I am found to be the carrier of flu to a care facility and did not take precautions (some definition) fine me $X. $1000 ought to be enough to make me think twice about visiting grandma if I could possibly have the flu and do not take some precautions.

    We also have the freedom to infect others if we want and to go into a care facility when we have the aches and fever, and nausea of the flu. I know my grandmother would have said, “get you A– out of here, you look like you have the flu, and you just want to kill me so you can get your inheritance instead of me using it to stay in this facility!”

    We can use our freedoms any way we choose. I have made my choice with CV 19 to stay as far away from potential carriers. I am hoping, beyond hope, that we all take the added precautions to protect others. We know how to increase the protection for those in care facilities, we should spend more time figuring out how to do that. Let’s find a way to use our freedoms to protect grandma!

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