King County is now on Phase 1.5 of the Safe Start plan, which is, in simple terms, a modified Phase One. The decision was announced on June 5, making King County is the only county in this enhanced first phase. Washington State is restarting its economy and social life county by county.
“It was three months ago today that we announced to the region that the first confirmed outbreak in the U.S. of coronavirus had been discovered right here, in King County,” said Executive Dow Constantine in a conference held with local health leaders on May 29. “Now, over those three months, more than 540 families in this county have lost mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, loved ones. […] Thousands of our fellow Washingtonians have been hospitalized, more than 20,000 people have tested positive […]. In those early days, we reacted swiftly and decisively to ask people in our community, individuals [and] businesses to do their part to stem the tide of the virus to help flatten a curve […]. Our economy suffered a great deal as well. […] Our region’s resolve in defeating the virus has contributed great progress reducing infection and slowing spread so that today we are able to make a big step toward recovery.” He also considers that King County still has a long way to go. “We haven’t quite hit our numbers and our case counts are still volatile, [we are] seeing peaks and valleys along our path to zero, so even with the great progress we’ve made, we still aren’t where we need to be to safely open all the activities as described in the state’s Phase Two.” In order to move to the next phase, the county must have less than 25 new cases per 100,000 people in two weeks.
Phase Two’s guidelines apply to most indoor activities but with stricter capacity and time limitations. Restaurants can seat 25 percent of their indoor capacity, and 50 percent of their outdoor capacity, always maintaining a distance of six feet between tables and chairs. Restaurants can also request a city permit to obtain a new outdoor space. Real estate activities, professional services (like accounting and counseling), and personal service (like hairdressing and cosmetics) facilities are open but at 25 percent of their capacity, with a time limit of 30 minutes per client. Indoor gyms allow one-on-one activities and no more than five clients from different households, and when physical distancing is not possible, the recommendation is to use barriers or reduce staff and customers for a given time frame. Pet grooming establishments can operate with 25 percent of occupancy.
In comparison, non-essential retail stores can provide services to 15 percent of their capacity for a maximum of 30 minutes per customer. Domestic services follow Phase Two guidance, ideally with the client absent during the service, or at a safety distance (six feet). Photography, construction, and manufacturing may resume under Phase two rules, again, with the due precautionary measures. All libraries remain closed to the public. Social gatherings with a maximum of five people outside the household can only take place in outdoor spaces. Recreational outdoor activities such as mini-golf and scuba diving can see the participation of groups with a maximum of five people from different households.