By now, it’s something of a cliche to say that we’re living in unprecedented times. Yet it’s accurate. There are few people who’ve seen a confluence of disease and economic difficulties caused by something like COVID-19. Citizens and businesses alike look forward to reopening. As a Vancouver, Wa attorney, we want to take a moment to look at the phased reopening plan currently unfolding, and take a moment to consider its legal ramifications.
Understanding the Four Phases of Business Reopenings
Governor Jay Inslee has announced a four-phase plan for reopening Washington’s businesses, with the phases determined on a county-by-county basis. Here is a brief overview of these phases and what they mean for business owners in Washington.
Phase One encourages high-risk populations to stay home unless engaging in essential activities that Phase One permits. At the same time, individuals can resume outdoor recreation that allows for social distancing (tennis, golf, boating, and hiking). Non-religious gatherings, non-essential travel, and indoor sports are still restricted. Landscaping, auto, boat, and RV sales can resume if following state-sanctioned reopening plans. Phase One limits retail to curbside pickup.
In Phase II, the government permits outdoor recreation outside that involves five or fewer people. Individuals may gather with no more than five people outside their homes per week. Manufacturing and construction are allowed to resume. As are in-home and domestic services, barbers, tattoo artists, pet groomers, and fitness instruction in small groups. Libraries may open for curbside pickup, restaurants may reopen at lowered capacity, and limited in-store purchases are permitted for retail.
Phase Three allows outdoor recreation involving fifty or fewer people, and indoor rec at less than 50% of capacity. This phase also allows for non-essential travel. Restaurants may now operate under 75% capacity, theaters under 50%, and bars at restaurants and taverns under 25%. Customer-facing government services return, with other functions, encouraged to telework. Libraries and museums come back online, as do many other business activities except for nightclubs, and events attended by more than fifty people.
Phase Four allows nightclubs, concert venues, and large sporting events to return to normal operation. Activities and businesses involving more than fifty people can go back to normal. The government encourages those at high risk to maintain social distancing, and all recreational activity — indoors and out — can resume.
What’s the Catch?
The state isn’t moving through these phases en bloc. At a minimum, all 39 Washington counties have met the criteria for Phase One as of this writing. King, Chelan, and Douglas Counties are under a modified version of Phase One that allows for the resumption of certain Phase Two activities with restrictions. Some counties, including Clark County, have progressed fully into Phase Two. While neighboring Skamania County, and many of the counties on the eastern edge of the state, except for Spokane County, have moved on to Phase Three. Real-time reopening statistics are available via the Washington State Coronavirus Response site.
What Does the Law Say About Liability & Do You Need to Meet a Vancouver, WA Attorney?
Many of the state and federal agencies have issued COVID-19 guidance to help businesses open safely. These guidelines are essential to help prevent the spread of the virus, yet some individuals may not follow these instructions and rules. If you feel a business’s negligence has led to illness or injury, we encourage you to contact Philbrook Law to meet with a leading Vancouver, WA attorney. We’ve protected the rights of countless individuals in the Vancouver area, and we’re here for you too.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.