UPDATE – Coronavirus shutdown order puts construction on hold across the state

Construction - World Bank Photo Collection - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

During a press conference held on April 24, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a plan that allows some construction jobs to resume after being put on hold since March 26 due to the COVID-19 statewide shutdown.

Before construction can start up again, all contractors are required to develop and post a plan at each site addressing the use of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, social distancing and on-site sanitation. There will also be a designated site-specific supervisor to enforce the new safety plan and monitor the health of employees. Workers will undergo additional training on these new policies.

Multiple factors are at play in Inslee’s decision making. He said reduced risk needs to be shown in disease activity, health care system readiness, testing capacity, and availability and increase in the case and contact investigations once a case is confirmed.

Inslee worked on this plan with multiple construction groups in the weeks leading up to the announcement, including the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Association of Washington Business.

The main hurdle contractors have to clear is maintaining social distancing, according to Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Monty Anderson. “Now, if you have three guys doing a concrete pour…you could probably distance. IF you have four people in a room doing drywall, probably not,” he explains. “There’s no way that we’re going to have possibly 15,000 construction workers go back to work in the next ten days in King County and have those jobs be inspected.”

April 29 marks 100 days since Washington’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed. “We all know these first 100 days have been extremely challenging and life-changing for all of us,” Inslee said at Wednesday’s press conference. The Washington Department of Health announced that the total number of deaths in the state had reached 800, with a total number of cases over 14,000.