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COVID-19: Where Things Stand as of August 3


August 3, 2020 by Steve Gross
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Utilities - Billing and Collection , Public Records Act , COVID-19

COVID-19: Where Things Stand as of August 3

Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-25.7 on July 24. Key provisions and changes from prior versions of the “Safe Start – Stay Healthy” Proclamation are reviewed below.

1. It extends the state of emergency in 20-05 (as amended) and 20-25 (as amended) until the emergency is declared over or the order is amended or rescinded. This is a change from previous versions that had specific expiration dates.

2. The Safe Start Washington Phased Reopening County-by-County Plan (Safe Start), the Order of the Secretary of Health 20-03.1 (requiring facial covering statewide, issued on July 24, 2020) and all other provisions of Proclamations 20-25, et seq., remain in full force and effect (except as modified in the latest proclamation).

3. Personal protective behaviors listed in the proclamation remain in effect. Wearing cloth face coverings is required as set out in more detail in the Secretary of Health’s Order 20-03.1.

4. It continues previous requirements that employees on the job must wear facial coverings (except when working alone or when they have no in-person interaction). See our blog post on COVID-19 Facial Coverings — What’s Required? for more detail on face coverings.

5. It continues specific requirements for employers, specifically that: “No employer may operate, allow a customer to enter a business, conduct business, or employ employees unless the employer” cooperates with public health authorities on investigations and implementation of infection-control measures related to COVID-19 and complies with all public health and Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) orders, guidance, and rules.

6. It adds a requirement that everyone wear a face covering inside or outside, unless there’s a specific exemption. For outdoors, face coverings are not requirement if you can maintain a six-foot separation.

 7. Low-risk activities previously allowed, such as visiting state parks, are still allowed.

L&I’s emergency rule (WAC 296-800-14035), dated July 2, continues to forbid employers from allowing employees to work where a business activity is prohibited by an emergency proclamation. The rule also requires employers to comply with all conditions, including Safe Start phased requirements and any specific industry requirements required by emergency proclamations that were in effect at the time the emergency rule was adopted.

Open Public Meetings Act Update

Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-28.8 on July 31. The existing OPMA statutory waivers are extended through September 1.

In-person meetings are still prohibited unless your county is in Phase 3 of the Safe Start Washington Phased Reopening County-by-County Plan.

If your jurisdiction is in Phase 3 you may (but are not required to) allow for an in-person meeting in addition to a remote meeting. If you have an in-person component to your meeting you must still provide, at a minimum, telephonic access that allows all persons to hear each other at the same time. In-person meetings are limited to the maximum number of people who are allowed to gather in the county in which the meeting is held. All attendees must be separated by at least six feet and must wear face coverings. (This can be done at your primary meeting location or an overflow physical location). Your jurisdiction must comply with all the provisions of the Safe State plan related to in-person meetings, Proclamation 20-25.7, and Washington State Secretary of Health’s Order 20-03.1 regarding face coverings.

If at any time the in-person component cannot meet any of these requirements, the public meeting (including the phone or remote component) must be adjourned, continued, or terminated until all the conditions can be met.

Public Records Act Update

Proclamation 20-28.8 extends the statutory waivers and other requirements related to the Public Records Act though September 1.

The governor also issued Proclamation 20-64, which prohibits public agencies, including local governments, from releasing personally identifying information and contact information gathered by COVID-19 contact tracers or in customer/visitor/employee logs in response to a public records request. This prohibition does not apply to the name or location of a business or entity that is part of a contact tracing investigation. The proclamation expires August 29 at 11:59 PM.

Evictions

Proclamation 20-19.3 prohibits residential and commercial evictions, as well as rent increases or threats to increase rent, for residential tenants and for commercial tenants who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. These provisions continue through October 15. Eviction processes are still available if the occupant poses a significant and immediate risk to the health, safety, or property of others, but this requires a court order. Eviction is also available if the owner provides at least 60 days’ written notice to personally occupy the premises as a primary residence or to sell the property or if an occupant refuses to enter into or comply with a reasonable repayment plan.

Utilities Update

Proclamation 20-23.7 extends through October 15 the rule prohibiting utility service providers from 1) disconnecting residential service due to nonpayment, 2) refusing to reconnect residential customers who were disconnected due to nonpayment, or 3) charging late fees or reconnection fees.

New this time is a prohibition on disconnecting residential service for an individual who has applied for assistance from the utility’s COVID-19 Customer Support Program.

Stay Tuned for More Updates

By extending the emergency orders in some places until the state of emergency expires, and by giving us all some breathing room on this latest round of extensions, the governor and the state’s legislative leadership have recognized that we’ve got a ways to go.

As new guidance is issued by state agencies we will add it to our COVID-19 Governor's Proclamations and State Guidance page. If you have questions, please let us know at our Ask MRSC page.


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Steve Gross

Steve Gross joined MRSC as a Legal Consultant in January 2020.

Steve has worked in municipal law and government for over 20 years as an Assistant City Attorney for Lynnwood, Seattle, Tacoma, and Auburn, and as the City Attorney for Port Townsend and Auburn. He also has been a legal policy advisor for the Pierce County Council and has worked in contract administration.

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