Safe Start for Businesses: an Overview

This series of articles explores the effects of COVID-19 on the local creative economy and the plans for reopening and safe operation throughout the various industries within the sector.  This article is an overview, and the following articles are also available:

A Major Blow to the Creative Economy

After closing companies, canceling events, ceasing production, and shuttering cultural spaces and venues for months during spring and early summer, COVID nearly destroyed the creative economy.  

Since then, many creative businesses and organizations were able to start re-emerging in some form along with the rest of the local economy. However, many were also never able to establish new lines of business or safe ways to reopen.  And, as the winter has plunged us not just back into darkness and cold, but back into lockdown as well, many must close or curtail even their limited operations for at least four weeks in November.  

Evaluating the Impact

Still with a long way yet to go, COVID continues to wreak 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 a more recent snapshot in October showed that 73% of arts organizations had laid off workers, and that the amount of the workforce laid of varied dramatically with an average of at least a third.  

Finally, a survey by Washington Filmworks found that the trend was even more dramatic statewide and across the sector, with 70% of creative workers statewide experiencing a loss of work or had switched from employment to self-employment in 2020.

Still other studies are still working to estimate the effects on local music, filmmaking and other creative sectors, but it is clearly evident that the pandemic’s economic effects are devastating to the creative industries, affecting the majority of the workers and businesses within the sector negatively, and many of them severely so.

Washington State’s "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 certain galleries, retail, museums, theaters, design firms, studio-based production and other creative enterprises have been staggered throughout. 

Check the Safe Start guidance documents by business type on the governor’s website

Information about the specifics of our current phase in King County, along with the recent statewide restrictions in November are available in the Current Safe Start Phase Guidelines article.

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. 

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