Safe Start Phased Reopening Announced
New reopening approach establishes reopening criteria responsive to local conditions.

The statewide Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, first announced on March 19, ended on Sunday. Washington’s economy is now on a path to recovery. The Safe Start plan is the state’s strategy to adapt to local conditions and optimize economic activity and public health.

The Safe Start plan is based on a county-by-county approach to reopening. Criteria for county phase advancement were described in a May 29 memo issued by the governor.

The plan allows for some Phase 1 counties to enter a “modified Phase 1” that permits some Phase 2 activities with modifications. Phase 2 counties are eligible to apply for Phase 3 after three weeks have elapsed under Phase 2.

The plan does allow for regression if public health conditions worsen. The counties may initiate a return to an earlier phase, or the Secretary of Health may return a county to an earlier phase if necessary.

Review the announcement and the phase criteria for more information.

Cloth Facial Coverings Required for Washington Workers
Employees statewide to don cloth facial coverings at the workplace starting June 8.

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 requirements. Employees may choose to wear their own facial coverings at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements.

See the governor’s Medium post for more information.

Safe Start Details New Requirements for All Employers
The Safe Start plan identifies 11 universal workplace safety considerations.

New, universal workplace safety requirements have been instituted under the Safe Start plan as a broad defense against the spread of COVID-19 at Washington workplaces.

The requirements encompass facial coverings, personal protective equipment, physical distancing, hand sanitation, surface sanitation, employee education, development of policy for ill employees, and compliance with emergency workplace guidance issued by the State of Washington.

See the full Safe Start plan for more information.

Employment Security Department Offers Return-To-Work Resources
As business activity resumes, ESD is prepared with answers to common questions

The reopen of Washington’s economy will “resemble more the turn of a dial than the flip of a switch,” according to Governor Inslee. ESD offers several resources as employers gradually return to full-steam.

ESD has developed a Return-To-Work FAQ to address common worker and employer questions. Can workers refuse work and collect unemployment? Are workers that fall ill eligible for unemployment? Answers to these and other questions can be found under Workers Q&A and Business Q&A.

ESD’s SharedWork provides employers flexibility to bring employees back and retain their workers at reduced hours. The program offers partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours are reduced by as much as 50 percent. Employees can begin to return to work and earn nearly a full paycheck.

Watch ESD’s SharedWork program overview video.

New Risk Assessment Dashboard Consolidates Safe Start Progress
Dashboard shows county-level phase status, disease activity, and other critical metrics

The Safe Start plan will open economic activity based on local public health conditions. The new dashboard on illustrates a county-level picture of local conditions and readiness to reopen.

Key metrics in Phase advancement are disease activity, testing capacity, healthcare system readiness, case investigations, and danger to high-risk populations.

The “Phases and Risk Assessment Tab” shows statewide and county-level Safe Start progress. It also plainly states whether or not the state, or a particular county, is meeting criteria to reopen.

Additional Resources

Small Business Requirements and Resources Webinar by the state’s Small Business Liaison Team

  • This regular webinar series offers information specific to small businesses, and a panel of state agency representatives respond to live Q&A.

COVID-19 Business Checklist by Challenge Seattle

  • Challenge Seattle’s COVID-19 Business Checklist offers a library of ideas and precautionary measures that businesses can deploy to resume activity and protect workers and customers.

Washington-Made PPE Marketplace by the Association of Washington Business

  • AWB’s “PPE Connect” marketplace connects Washington employers with Washington manufacturers of protective equipment. Keep your workers safe and support Washington businesses by requesting PPE through AWB’s marketplace. AWB has also published a Safe Work Plan template that may be a helpful starting point for your own internal communications.

COVID-19 Webinar Recordings by the Association of Washington Business

  • On the May 29 webinar, ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine briefed the audience on recovery of fraudulent unemployment benefits and Office of the Governor External Relations Director Nick Streuli presented on Safe Start progress. A panel of experts from state agencies responded live to audience questions.

“The Impact: Road to Recovery” series by TVW

  • The latest episode featured Nick Streuli, External Relations Director for the Office of the Governor. Mr. Streuli discussed the process for writing sector safety guidance, and progress of the Safe Start reopening plan.