OLYMPIA — As Washington’s economy slowly reopens, Gov. Jay Inslee said he would “be very confident to go out to a restaurant” with new safety guidelines to protect people against the coronavirus pandemic.
But in a news conference, Inslee also expressed concern about the crowds of people seen at one tribal casino that reopened this week — and said he had urged Native American leaders to not reopen those facilities so quickly.
The governor earlier this week issued safety guidelines for various industries to restart in counties cleared to proceed with the second phase of Inslee’s four-part statewide reopening plan.
The safety guidelines issued this week for those phase two reopenings allow restaurants in some counties to restart some in-store dining, retailers to proceed with some in-store purchases and some personal and professional services to resume.
“When restaurants are open, they’re going to open with good protocols and good hygiene practices,” Inslee said, adding later: “And when that happens, I’ll be very confident to go out to a restaurant.”
Officials have said most of Washington’s 39 counties are likely to begin phase two on June 1, if public health data looks favorable.
Small counties with no recent cases have been given permission by the state to begin phase two now, including: Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Stevens and Wahkiakum counties.
That means those counties, for example, can begin allowing restaurants to reopen at 50% of their capacity, with tables of five or fewer people.
Inslee this week also issued safety guidelines for personal services to restart June 1, which covers barbers, cosmetologists, hairstylists, aestheticians, nail salon workers, as well as makeup and tattoo artists.
And he released phase two safety guidelines for professional services which includes workers such as accountants, attorneys, architects, financial advisers, tax preparers, engineers, IT professionals and insurance agents.
Thursday evening, Inslee also issued guidance clarifying how outdoor recreation would be allowed to open during phase one and phase two of the plan.
That guidance includes safety guidelines for staffed outdoor tennis facilities; guided fishing, paddle sports, ATV and horseback riding; go-cart tracks and motorsports; and other outdoor activities that are similar in operation.
A full list of safety guidelines issued by the governor allowing businesses can be found at: https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-reopening-guidance-businesses-and-workers.
Despite the reopenings, “we’re a long ways from getting back to normal economic activity … because it would be just titanically too dangerous to do that,” Inslee said.
While Inslee doesn’t have authority over 22 tribes on whether they reopen their casinos, the governor said he has urged tribes to not reopen too quickly.
“I have expressed to the tribes that I would very much be more pleased if their openings were consistent with some of the business openings in our state,” he said. “And so, I, on several occasions, I have expressed the wish that they would wait … for obvious reasons.
“But I have been hearing from them that they are going to be very diligent in their hygiene efforts, and I hope that they are very, very successful,” Inslee said.
First enacted on March 23, the governor’s stay-at-home order is in effect through May 31. But under the first phase of his reopening plan, Inslee in late April began lifting some restrictions.
Those included restarting some construction work and allowing some outdoor recreational activities to proceed, like fishing and hunting.