As of June 5th, King County is progressing into a modified Phase 1 or “Phase 1.5” and businesses are starting to think about their individual reopening plans. With reopening your business there are many concerns – When can I reopen? How do I reopen? and What policies do I need in place? While each business’s reopening plan is unique, this article provides some guidance regardless of what industry you are in.
When can I reopen?
As of June 5th, King County moved into Phase 1.5 and certain businesses can reopen immediately. However, not all industries are able to reopen and each industries’ timeframe will vary depending on Safe Start’s outline. Further, reopening will depend on if your business is able to meet all the CoVID-19 regulations.
How do I reopen?
The first step to reopening is monitoring Washington’s regulations and your county’s status. King County’s Phase 1.5 regulations are summarized here. King County’s Phase 1.5 is best summarized as Phase 2 with lower capacities and interaction time limits.
Because King County is in a modified phase, it is highly recommended that your business appoints one person to be in charge of monitoring CoVID-19 reopening for the firm. This appointment ensures that at least one person is constantly monitoring King County’s reopening progression and plans. While your business can discuss reopening as a group, it is smoothest to have one person summarizing the reopening information for your company.
What policies do I need?
The second step is to review Washington’s Safe Start regulations as well as other government agencies (CDC, Labor & Industries, Department of Health) for what the overarching reopening rules will be. It is best to start with knowing the general protocols and then looking into your specific industry’s requirements.
You should start by understanding the basics of CoVID-19 protocols – personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing (6′ spacing), and proper hygiene and sanitation (handwashing, respiratory etiquette, and daily cleanings). From there, you should review Washington’s Safe Start to understand how Washington plans to progress with reopening and how your county’s phase fits within that plan. For example, King County Phase 1.5 is a more restricted Phase 2 – more businesses are allowed to open than in Phase 1 but with more restricted capacity and time limits than Phase 2. One thing that is mostly in common with all phases is the wearing of face masks (look here) as they are a protective barrier between each other at all times when inside.
Third, you should review your specific industry’s regulations. Each industry has different restrictions and it will impact how you run your business once it is open. For many, their physical location
will have a limited capacity, which will be a percentage of the establishment’s capacity as is set by fire code.
The last step is starting to think about how your business will actually apply the regulations to your space and workflow. Again, this will depend on industry, but businesses should consider the following:
What is the daily flow of my business?
o How do the employees enter? At what times?
o How do clients enter and interact with my employees?
o How do employees and clients interact with their surroundings?
What do my employees think about reopening? How do we as a company have discussions around CoVID-19 concerns?
Are there strategies for reopening that work with my business model?
o Can some employees still work from home?
o Which employees’ presence are essential to reopening?
When thinking about what reopening strategies work for your business model, each business will need to think about how to balance the importance of reopening the physical location and its employees’ and clients’ safety. The thought process for reopening is to think through the daily flow of how your business works. Everything from the first person walking in the door to the last person leaving – what does the typical day look like? Understanding how your daily business flows will inform how you implement CoVID-19 regulations because CoVID-19 regulations are the rules that the business will need to follow to reopen.
Once you have a feel for how your business’s daily flow works, begin applying the regulations. Does everyone enter through one door? If so, can you leave that door open to minimize door handle contact? Are there gathering spaces in your business (kitchens, supply areas, conference rooms)? If so, can you place social distancing markers or limit use of those areas to implement social distancing? Go through a whole day’s flow and take notes. From there you are able to apply the CoVID-19 reopening regulations.
Once you have a solid outline of your policies and procedures, it is highly recommended to review them with your employees and ask for feedback. It will likely surprise you at how differently your employees may view the workflow and you may learn about potential risk areas from your employee’s feedback. For example, at Apex half the staff used the supply area as a point to stock their personal office and the other half used it as the place to leave office supplies and to pick up supplies as needed. This gathering point for half the office would have been missed unless Apex’s CoVID-19 policies and procedures were discussed as a team. Based on employee’s feedback, Apex’s policies were updated to better match the actual flow of the office and reduce risk of high touch areas.
So to summarize how to you should plan for reopening, you should 1) understand the stage your county is in; 2) understand the highest and broadest regulations from the federal and state government; 3) review your industry’s specific regulations; and 4) tailor and apply the known regulations to your business.
If you would like help with drafting or reviewing your business’s CoVID-19 policies, or if you have any other CoVID-19 related legal questions, feel free to reach out to Tara M. Vitale at email@example.com.
The above article is for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice. This article, or contacting Apex, does not in any way form an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Tara M. Vitale at firstname.lastname@example.org.