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FAQ: Washington’s Safe Start Plan for Reopening

On May 1, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee extended the “Stay Home – Stay Healthy” Proclamation 20-25 (the “Governor’s Proclamation”) through May 31, 2020. Additionally, Governor Inslee announced framework for a four-phase reopening of Washington (the “Safe Start Plan”), with Washington currently being in Phase 1.

(Last Updated May 5, 2020)

What is Permitted Under Phase 1 of the Safe Start Plan?

Phase 1 of the Safe Start Plan takes effect on May 5 and allows certain activities to resume in Washington. All essential work is included in this phase. Individuals should still follow stay-in-place and social distancing practices, consistent with the Governor’s Proclamation.

  • Existing construction work with adequate social distancing and safety measures, as permitted on April 24 and the additional construction guidance on April 29;

  • Outdoor recreation activities, as permitted on April 27;

  • Curb-side pick-up orders for retail, as of May 5;

  • Landscaping, as of May 5;

  • Auto/RV/Boat/ORV sales, as of May 5, and

  • Other activities included in the Safe Start Plan Phase 1, including essential travel and limited non-essential travel to activities permitted under Phase 1. (These activities can resume as of May 5).

How Will the State Move into New Phases of the Safe Start Plan?

The Governor will issue an order when there is any change in Washington’s phase of the Safe Start Plan. There will be at least three weeks between each phase. The decision to move to another phase will be based on a decrease of the COVID-19 burden and the capabilities of Washington’s health care system readiness, testing capacity and availability, case and contact investigations, and the ability to protect high-risk populations.

When Will New Construction Be Able to Start?

New construction work will be permitted when Washington enters Phase 2 of the Safe Start Plan. May 24 is the earliest possible date that the state could enter Phase 2, but that decision will be based on the metrics detailed above.

As discussed in our prior post, existing construction projects that can satisfy safety requirements were permitted to resume on April 24. The definition of “existing” construction work included all construction work that had been contracted for prior to March 23 or authorized by a government-issued permit prior to March 23. As such, if a contract was entered into for construction work after March 23 and/or a government-issued permit was issued after March 23, it is considered new construction work that will only be able to resume when Washington enters Phase 2. All new and existing construction work must follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

What Activities will be Allowed in Each Phase?

Phase 2 of the Safe Start Plan could take effect on May 25 at the earliest. Individuals should still follow stay-in-place and social distancing practices. Permitted activities will include:

  • New construction (detailed above);

  • Gatherings of no more than 5 people outside of your household;

  • Outdoor recreation involving 5 people or less (camping, beaches);

  • Non-essential manufacturing;

  • In-home domestic services;

  • Real estate services;

  • Pet grooming;

  • Hair and nail salon/barbers;

  • Professional services and office-based businesses; and

  • Restaurants/taverns at 50% capacity.

Phase 3 of the Safe Start Plan could take effect in mid-June at the earliest, depending on Washington’s COVID-19 trends. Individuals should still follow stay-in-place and social distancing practices. Permitted activities will include:

  • Gatherings with no more than 50 people;

  • Customer-facing government services;

  • Museums and libraries;

  • Recreational facilities at 50% capacity (gyms, public pools, etc.);

  • Non-essential travel;

  • Restaurants/taverns at 75% capacity with bar areas at 25% capacity; and

  • All other business activities except for nightclubs and events with greater than 50 people.

Phase 4 of the Safe Start Plan could take effect in July at the earliest, depending on Washington’s COVID-19 trends. Public interactions can resume under this phase, with social distancing still in place. Permitted activities will include:

  • Gatherings with more than 50 people;

  • Nightclubs, concert venues, and large sporting events; and

  • Unrestricted staffing of worksites, though physical distancing and good hygiene should be practiced.

Throughout these phases, employers should continue to implement COVID-19 safety practices in the workplace (discussed below).

What Safety Steps Should Employers Implement?

Businesses should implement general COVID-19 safety practices throughout all of these phases, including:

  • Maintaining the six-foot distance for employees and patrons and adopting prevention measures such as physical barriers when distancing is not possible;

  • Limiting close interaction with patrons;

  • Providing sanitation and personal hygiene for workers, vendors, and patrons;

  • Ensuring employees have access to handwashing facilities and personal protective equipment as necessary;

  • Ensuring frequent cleaning and disinfection of the business, particularly high-touch surfaces; and

  • Identifying guidelines for responding to a sick employee.

We recommend that all employers review the Safe Start Plan’s “Requirements for All Employers,” found on page 4 of the linked document. Additionally, employers are responsible for implementing industry-specific requirements, such as the social distancing and safety requirements for the construction industry.

This article is intended to provide you with general information regarding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on construction work in Washington state. This article is not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have any questions about the contents of this article or if you need legal advice on an issue, please contact Heffernan Law Group at

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