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Saturday Night Soul 2 | Northwest Folklife Festival 2019 | Photo by April Jingco
Last Updated: July 28, 2020

Safely Re-Starting the Creative Economy

After closing companies, canceling events, ceasing production, and shuttering cultural spaces and venues for months to help stop the spread of COVID-19, creative businesses are now starting to re-emerge along with the rest of the local economy.  Still with a long way yet to go, COVID has already wreaked havoc on the creative economy locally and throughout the world.  

The Independent Artist Sustainability Effort assessed an impact of almost $1.7M on local individual artists just in the first month.  

ArtsFund figured more than $74.1M lost revenues at arts and cultural organizations through May. 

And other studies are still working to estimate the effects on local music, filmmaking and other creative sectors. 

The 4-Phase "Safe Start" Plan

On May 29, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued a “Safe Start” approach to reopening our economy, which will roll out in four phases applied county-by-county.

The State Department of Health reviews and approves county applications to move to a new phase as quickly as every 3 weeks.  The decision is based in the county’s performance in controlling the spread of the virus, with the following key metrics (current data available on the COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard):

  • Rate of less than 25 per 100K of newly diagnosed cases during the previous two weeks
  • Greater than 50 individuals tested for each new case during the prior week
  • Less than 2% of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 during the past week
  • Less than 80% of licensed beds occupied by patients
  • Less than 10% licensed beds occupied by COVID-19 cases

See a quick reference tool for the business openings at each of the phases on the State COVID-19 site.

Re-Opening Guidance for Employers

Once included among the business activities allowed in the current Phase, businesses must be able to meet all safety criteria in order to open.  

For the most part, the industries within the creative sector that involve large gatherings will need to wait until Phase 4, although the re-opening for certain galleries, retail, museums, theaters, design firms, studio-based production and other creative enterprise will be staggered throughout. Check the Safe Start guidance documents by business type on the governor’s website

Additional workplace safety information, including face covering guidelines, is available on their Business & Workers page.  And the State Department of Health also provides guidance and information for businesses, non-profits, service providers, health providers and others.

King County & Phase 2

King County applied and was accepted for Phase 2 on Friday, June 19.  That means the following:

  • Limited social gatherings may now be held with five or fewer people outside your household. 
  • Outdoor recreation allowed (also with 5 or fewer people outside your household), including camping, beach-going, hunting, fishing, golfing, boating and hiking
  • Indoor and outdoor spiritual or religious services with up to the lesser of 25% capacity or 200 individuals.
  • Manufacturing, construction, real estate, pet grooming, domestic services, personal services, and small group fitness are allowed.
  • Photography, restaurants, galleries and other retailers can once again serve customers, all at limited capacity.

Most businesses will be required to operate at reduced capacity and hours, and all will be required to follow state guidelines designed to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. These call for social distancing, regular hand washing and, with few exceptions, wearing cloth masks. 

Continuing to take these precautions is crucial to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and allow us to resume normal economic activity.

The full list of reopening requirements is available on the County Safe Start website.

Looking Ahead to Phases 3 & 4

As of July 27, King County has had six straight weeks of increase to the number of cases, delaying any additional stages until at least September.  However, if we can get the virus under control, we can look forward to moving into Phase 3 then, and even possibly Phase 4 in the fall of 2020.  

When approved, Phase 3 will allow gatherings up to 50 people, theaters at 50% capacity, openings at libraries and museums, and full opening of other retail and office environments.

Eventually, Phase 4 will then open gatherings beyond 50 people and for the first time allow the opening of nightclubs, concert venues, large sporting events and festivals.

Until there is a vaccine or other widely available intervention that can slow the spread or cure the dangerous elements of the disease otherwise, social distancing and other precautions are very likely to continue well into 2021 no matter what Phase we are in.


Immediate questions about your health?
King County Public Health Hotline