The Kitsap County Emergency Operations Center released a recovery playbook earlier this week, detailing guidelines and recommendations for how to safely begin reopening businesses for employees and customers as the state nears end of the first phase of its “Safe Start” plan.
The four phases
Washington began Phase 1 on May 5 and it will continue through at least Monday, June 1. Each phase will last for a minimum of three weeks, until reaching Phase 4, which is essentially the reopening of the entire state. During that time, the Department of Health and the Governor’s office will continually evaluate all relevant data to determine whether or not the state moves forward to a new phase, stays in the same phase, or reverts to a previous phase.
The three week time period allows for one complete disease incubation cycle as well as an additional week to compile adequate data.
Phase 1 keeps a ban in place on large gatherings, whether they are for spiritual, recreational or any other purpose. Some outdoor recreation, such as hunting, golfing, fishing and hiking are allowed. Only essential businesses can be open, while others, such as retail and food establishments can offer curbside service. Medical, dental and specialty dental facilities, practices and practitioners are prohibited from providing non-urgent health care and dental services, procedures and surgeries during this time unless they act in good faith with reasonable clinical judgment and are able to comply with all criteria.
Low-risk construction and landscape work, vehicle and vessel sales have also resumed.
In phase two, outdoor recreation and gathering involving fewer than five people from outside a given household can commence. Travel remains limited to essential trips and the permissible non-essential activities. Non-essential manufacturing can resume, as can additional construction phases and in-home services. Retail outlets can return to in-store purchases with restrictions. Real estate and office-based businesses can reopen — with telecommunication remaining strongly encouraged — hair and nail salons, barber shops and restaurants can open at half capacity with table sizes no larger than five.
Phase three sees the allowance of large groups for recreation and gathering (up to 50 people) as well as the reopening of recreational facilities such as gyms and public pools at half capacity. Professional sports games and matches without audience participation can begin as well.
Restaurants can move to 75 percent capacity with tables no larger than 10 and bar areas in restaurants and taverns can have 25 percent capacity. Movie theaters can open at half capacity and government services, libraries, museums and all other business activities — except for night clubs and events with more than 50 people — can resume. Non-essential travel can also begin again in phase three.
Phase four sees the complete reopening of the state with continued practices of good hygiene and physical distancing.
What is an essential business?
While Washington or specific counties are still in phase one, only essential businesses are allowed to remain fully operational.
Essential workers include those performing critical clinical research and development as part of a COVID-19 response; Health care providers and caregivers — physicians, dentists, pharmacists, infection control and quality assurance personnel — other workers in various medical facilities; manufacturers, technicians, logistics and warehouse operators and distributors of medical equipment, diagnostics, personal protective equipment, testing materials and laboratory supplies; behavioral health workers; and workers who support food, shelter and social services and other necessities of life for economically-disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; and workers in the emergency services, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials and financial services sectors.
Essential employers should have in place a COVID-19 supervisor, COVID-19 safety training, social distancing measures, personal protective equipment, sanitation and cleanliness standards as well as a daily log of visitors to their location.
Guidance for individuals
No matter which phase the state or county is in, folks should still observe basic rules for stopping the transmission of COVID-19. Engage in physical distancing — keeping six feet away from other people — and wearing a cloth face covering in public spaces when not eating or drinking. If you are sick, stay home; and avoid others who are sick. Whether at work or at home, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and disinfect surfaces and objects regularly.
Guidance for businesses
All businesses and employers are encouraged to implement reopening plans that are tailored to each particular workplace. Employers should identify all areas and job tasks where this potential exposure to COVID-19 and have control measures in place to reduce or eliminate exposure.
Employers should actively encourage sick employees to stay home and consider conducting some kind of daily in-person or virtual health check. Telecommuting, if possible, should continue to be encouraged.
A daily health check can include measures such as symptom or temperature screening. They should be conducted respectfully, safely, and as privately as possible in order to avoid stigma or discrimination.
If an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, employers likely will not need to shut down their facilities. Rather, if it has been less than seven days since the sick employee has been in the facility, they can close off areas used for prolonged periods of time by the employee and disinfecting the area to minimize the potential for other employees to be exposed.
When at work, employers should educate employees about steps they can take to protect themselves at work and at home. Aside from staying home if they are sick, employees should know the key times to clean their hands — before and after work shifts, before and after work breaks, after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing, after using the restroom, before eating or preparing food and after putting on, touching or removing cloth face coverings.
Policies and social distancing practices should also be put in place. Employers should implement flexible work sites and work hours (telework and staggering shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at once), increase physical space between employees themselves and the customers, use signs, tape marks and other cues to demarcate six feet of space to help with social distancing and close or limit access to common areas where employees are likely to congregate.
Employees should also take other preventative measures, such as covering their mouth or nose with a tissue or the inside of their elbow when they sneeze, routinely disinfecting and cleaning frequently touched objects — such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
Some employees use public transportation or ride sharing to get to and from work. Employers should consider incentivizing forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others and perhaps offer reimbursement for parking or single-occupancy ride shares.
According to the playbook, employers should implement flexible sick leave policies in order to help employees either care for themselves or a family member if they test positive for COVID-19. Some suggestions include offering “advance” sick leave or creating new non-punitive emergency sick leave policies and ensure current human resources policies are consistent with public health recommendations and existing state and federal workplace laws.
Employers should not consider reopening unless they are able to comply with applicable state and local orders, follow recommended health and safety measures, actions and ongoing monitoring in place.