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COVID-19: Where Things Stand as of June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021  by  Jill Dvorkin
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Utilities - Billing and Collection Operating Policies COVID-19

COVID-19: Where Things Stand as of June 24, 2021

Editor's note: For a final summary of the June 30 reopening changes, see our blog post Washington State Reopening: Where Things Stand as of June 30, 2021.

Washington State is just days away from the much-anticipated June 30 reopening of the economy, first announced by Governor Jay Inslee in May. In advance of the official reopening, the governor has been amending guidance and easing industry-specific restrictions. Day-to-day life is feeling more “normal” than at any time since the start of the pandemic—thanks to increased vaccination rates and a decreased prevalence of the COVID-19 disease.

This blog sets forth our understanding of where things stand now and what things may look like starting June 30. We don’t know all the details yet, so some of this information is speculative based on what we’ve been hearing from the state and other organizations. We will publish a new blog post and e-newsletter on or around June 30 once the state has made the official announcements. We also post updates to our COVID-19 Governor’s Proclamations and State Guidance page as they become available, so feel free to bookmark that page.

Some Industry-Specific Guidance Rescinded or Consolidated

All employers (including local governments) are required to follow Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) COVID-19 Safety and Health Requirements and Guidance, which includes worker education, basic sanitation requirements, and mask and social distancing requirements for unvaccinated employees (see our blog post Face Masks in the Local Government Workplace).

In addition to these L&I rules, the governor had developed guidance specific to various industries and activities. The governor has recently rescinded and/or consolidated guidance for several of these industries and activities, including construction, manufacturing, and outdoor recreation, as outlined in this memo. The guidance that remains in effect can be found in the COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Businesses and Workers. The two guidance documents we’ve referenced most with regard to local government operations—the Professional Services and Miscellaneous Venues guidance (both updated on June 2)—remain in effect at this time. The Miscellaneous Venues guidance continues to apply to public meetings, as set forth in the OPMA Proclamation 20-28.14 as extended by Proclamation 20-28.15 (which also remains in effect). See our blog post Face Masks and In-Person Public Meetings for current guidance on public meetings. 

Three Emergency Proclamations Rescinded

The governor announced this week that he is rescinding three emergency proclamations related to COVID-19, including Proclamation 20-46 et seq. regarding high-risk workers. Proclamation 20-46.4 rescinds this proclamation effective 11:59 PM on June 28, 2021. The proclamation has been substantially replaced by ESSB 5115, the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA), which took effect May 11, 2021. For more information on HELSA, see the Department of Labor & Industries Q&A on Protecting High-Risk Employees from Discrimination During Public Health Emergencies.

The other proclamations rescinded were Proclamation 20-30, which had suspended statutory job search requirements for applicants seeking unemployment benefits, and Proclamation 20-76, which limited fees that third-party delivery services could charge restaurants.

Governor Announces Eviction Moratorium “Bridge”

The existing state eviction moratorium expires June 30, 2021, but the governor has announced that there will be a new eviction moratorium “bridge” in place from July 1-September 30. This will not be an extension of the existing moratorium, but rather a new order with new provisions to support renters and landlords until resources and programs become available and to allow for a transition to the tenant protections established in E2SSB 5160. The full proclamation and details will be released in coming days, but the governor’s news release provides a summary.

Other new legislation impacting evictions include HB 1236 (effective May 10, 2021), which sets forth a series of “just causes” for landlords to pursue eviction, including nonpayment of rent and utilities, violations of nuisance clauses, or if the owner intends to occupy or sell the unit, and E2SHB 1277 (effective July 25, 2021), which provides funding for state rental assistance programs.

Some local jurisdictions are also extending their own eviction moratoriums, such as Kirkland (see Ordinance No. O-4759) and Kenmore (see Emergency Rule 20-03.6 and Ordinance No. 21-0525, which prohibits landlords from pursuing collection unless they have certified they have made good faith efforts to obtain rental assistance and includes a required certification form).

Utility Shutoff Prohibition Still in Effect

The utility shutoff and late fee prohibitions in Proclamation 20-23.15 are still in effect through 11:59 PM on July 31, 2021, or the termination of the governor’s state of emergency, whichever comes first. The federal government has approved funding to provide relief to utilities and utility customers – for more information, see our blog posts New Federal Funding for Rent and Utility Assistance and American Rescue Plan Provides More Relief to Local Governments.

What Do We Expect to Happen on June 30?

While we expect significant easing of restrictions starting June 30, 2021, we do not expect the declaration of emergency set forth in February 2020 through Proclamation 20-05 to be rescinded yet. Governor Inslee’s press release announcing the reopening included the clarification that the “announcement does not mean that Washington’s state of emergency will lift on June 30.” 

Here is what we understand things may look like starting June 30, however we do not have confirmation:

  • The L&I COVID-19 Safety and Health Requirements and Guidance will likely remain in effect for all workplaces. This guidance continues to require social distancing and masking for unvaccinated employees or where vaccination status is unknown.
  • Capacity restrictions on almost everything will be lifted, although there may still be some restrictions on large events with greater than 10,000+ attendees.
  • Most industry and activity-specific guidance documents will be rescinded. Guidance documents that remain will be mostly related to K-12 schools, health care and congregate living settings.
  • The state is likely to adopt CDC guidelines in many areas, which continue to recommend social distancing in gatherings for unvaccinated individuals.
  • There will continue to be a statewide facial covering order for unvaccinated individuals.
  • Facial coverings will continue to be required on public transportation including planes, trains, and transit buses which is a federal requirement.

Regarding public meetings, our current understanding is that the OPMA Proclamation 20-28.15 will remain in effect. This means there will continue to be a remote meeting requirement, with an optional in-person component. However, we expect most restrictions for the in-person component to be lifted, consistent with any changes to the Miscellaneous Venues guidance. Masking will probably remain a requirement for unvaccinated individuals per the Washington State Secretary of Health’s Order 20-03.2 regarding facial coverings, and likely social distancing recommendations for unvaccinated attendees per CDC guidance.

As stated earlier, we’ll publish a new blog post around June 30 once we have more details, so stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, check our COVID-19 Governor’s Proclamations and State Guidance page for additional updates.

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 Jill Dvorkin

Jill joined MRSC as a legal consultant in June 2016 after working for nine years as a civil deputy prosecuting attorney for Skagit County. At Skagit County, Jill advised the planning department on a wide variety of issues including permit processing and appeals, Growth Management Act (GMA) compliance, code enforcement, SEPA, legislative process, and public records. Jill was born and raised in Fargo, ND, then moved to Bellingham to attend college and experience a new part of the country (and mountains!). She earned a B.A. in Environmental Policy and Planning from Western Washington University and graduated with a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law in 2003.



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