Since COVID-19 took hold back in March of 2020, there have been several different orders and/or guidelines issued by various federal, state and local agencies about where and how to move around safely.
For the most part, we began with strict stay-at-home guidelines that have slowly been revised or lifted on a county-by-county basis. At least until November. Just in mid-November, fresh restrictions were announced, again limiting business activity and indoor gatherings during the new surge in cases.
Stay Home, Stay Healthy
On March 23, as the Coronavirus epidemic was beginning to spread wider throughout the country, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced a statewide order requiring everyone to stay home. Initially set for two weeks, the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order was soon extended until the Safe Start Plan could be announced.
The proclamation required every resident of Washington to stay home unless pursuing an essential activity. It also banned all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes. And finally it closed all businesses except for essential businesses.
“The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save,” Inslee said at the time.
Though there has been considerable lessening of the stay home restrictions since then, this sentiment remains true today. Staying home and limiting contact with others, especially the general public is still the best way to remain healthy and safe from Coronavirus.
On June 1, Washington began implementation of the Safe Start Plan, setting each county to begin their own path through the various phases of reopening businesses, resuming gatherings, travel, shopping and recreation. County applications for progression through the phases would be considered based on key metrics regarding cases, transmission, hospitalization rates, testing capacity and health care readiness.
Back on June 19, King County officially entered Phase Two. The full statewide guide for Safe Start is available on the Coronavirus Guide.
Generally, it is still safest to stay at home and limit contact with others, however with Phase Two, the state and county recommendations allow for limited social gatherings with five or fewer people outside of your household. They also allow people to go back to restaurants, retailers and other businesses, at reduced capacity.
It is still required that all people and businesses follow social distancing, regular handwashing, wearing cloth face coverings and otherwise following prevention practices.
Regardless of phase, the safe start plan still requires face coverings that cover the nose and mouth when in any indoor or outdoor public setting. It also requires face coverings when working around others and requests cooperation with any efforts by public health officials to investigate cases and outbreaks. Individuals should continue to:
- Wear face coverings whenever in public areas
- Engage in physical distancing
- Stay home if sick
- Avoid others who are sick
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water (or hand sanitizer)
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly
More information about Safe Start for businesses and employers available in this article.
New Restrictions – November 2020
Over the summer, most if not many counties in the state made progress on key metrics and thus progressed through the beginning of the Safe Start phases. However, as the summer turned into fall, a disturbing trend of increases to new cases took over statewide and throughout the country. Many parts of the country introduced (or-reintroduced) strict limits and restrictions on activities to curtail the spread before the holiday season.
In Washington State, with caseloads passing 2000 per day and doubling within only two weeks, Governor Inslee announced a four-week set of restrictions. The restrictions are statewide and went into effect on Monday November 16 for four weeks. It is as yest unknown if they will be extended further. Restrictions are as follows:
- Indoor social gatherings are prohibited with people outside the household, unless 14 days quarantine beforehand or 7-days quarantine and a negative COVID test within 48 hours before the gathering.
- Restaurants and bars are closed for indoor service. Outdoor dining and takeout may continue but table size is limited to 5.
- All retail, including grocery stores and personal services limited to 25% occupancy.
- Religious services limited to 25% occupancy or no more than 200 (whichever is fewer). No choir, band or ensemble performances and no congregational singing. Face coverings required at all times.
- Fitness facilities and gyms are closed for indoor operations. Outdoor activity permitted within outdoor gathering restriction (5 people).
- Bowling alleys, museums, zoos, aquariums and movie theaters will all be fully closed for indoor services.