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Washington’s Plan for Reopening will Proceed on a County-by-County Basis

As of June 1, 2020, Washington’s Safe Start Plan for a phased reopening is underway in all 39 counties, with variations imposed county-by-county. This phased reopening plan replaces the “Stay Home – Stay Healthy Plan” that guided the statewide shutdown through May 31.

(Last Updated: June 3, 2020).


Under the Safe Start Plan, counties will start in the same phase they were in as of May 31, 2020. Counties with a greater number of COVID-19 related issues will remain in Phase 1. Certain counties who were previously approved to move to Phase 2 due to lower numbers of COVID-19 related issues will remain in Phase 2.

The State of Washington’s COVID-19 Risk Assessment Dashboard provides a comprehensive tracker of each county’s phase, which can be found here: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need-know/covid-19-risk-assessment-dashboard

  • Phase 1 Counties include King, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, Yakima, and Whatcom Counties. Phase 1 counties may be eligible for a Modified Phase 1 status.

  • Phase 2 Counties include Spokane, Thurston, Kitsap, Kittitas, and Lewis Counties. There are currently 27 counties in Phase 2.

For a general overview of permitted activities under the Safe Start Plan, please review our previous post: https://www.heffernanlawgroup.com/post/faq-washington-s-safe-start-plan-for-reopening


King County has applied for a Modified Phase 1 Status, while Snohomish and Pierce Counties are Pursuing a Phase 2 Variance.


King County is still in Phase 1 but has applied to move to a Modified Phase 1 on June 3.

Snohomish County and Pierce County have both applied for variances permitting the counties to move to Phase 2. While the counties have not met the exact criteria required by the State of Washington, both counties’ variation applications detail the downward trend of COVID-19 issues in the counties and their plans for Phase 2 compliance.


Additional Activities Allowed Under Modified Phase 1


All Phase 1 counties can apply for a modified Phase 1 status that permits certain additional activities, as set forth below:

  • Recreation and fitness – permitted outdoors with five or fewer people (not counting the instructor).

  • Gatherings – permitted outdoors with five or fewer people outside the household.

Construction – permitted in accordance with the Phase 2 guidance. Please review our prior post on Phase 2 of construction work for more information.

  • Manufacturing – permitted in accordance with the Phase 2 guidance.

  • Real estate – permitted with 25% of building occupancy.

  • In-store retail – permitted with 15% of building occupancy. This does not apply to currently operating essential retail.

  • Professional services – permitted with 25% building occupancy and indoor services limited to 30 minutes.

  • Personal service – permitted with 25% of building occupancy.

  • Restaurants – outdoor dining is permitted with seating at 50% of capacity. No indoor dining allowed.

For further information regarding what activities are potentially permitted under the Modified Phase 1 status, please review Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Plan guidance documents.

For further information regarding what is required for Phase 2 of construction work, please review the Phase 2 Construction COVID-19 Job Site Requirements. These requirements vary slightly from the Phase 1 requirements, including allowing limited violation of social distancing standards on all projects.


Each County’s Eligibility for a New Phase is Determined by COVID-19 Trends and Healthcare Readiness.


Each county must receive approval from Washington State’s Secretary of Health to enter the next phase of the Safe Start Plan. Once a county is approved to enter a new phase, it must wait at least three weeks before moving to the next phase. The eleven counties which moved to Phase 2 in early May are allowed to apply to move to Phase 3 on June 3.

The Secretary of Health examines certain factors to determine whether Phase 1 and Phase 2 counties can safely move to a new phase, including:

  • COVID-19 Disease Activity – incidences of new cases, hospitalization trends, and the reproductive rate of the virus.

  • Healthcare Readiness and Testing Capacity – hospital capacity, personal protective equipment (PPE) availability, COVID-19 testing accessibility, the effectiveness of case and contact investigations, and the ability to protect high-risk populations in areas such as nursing homes and homeless shelter.

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 contact@heffernanlawgroup.com.


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