Business & Worker Update: Oct. 8, 2020

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Oct. 8, 2020 

The Business and Workers update is a weekly newsletter providing news and information to help businesses and workers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The information is compiled by the state Economic Resiliency Team (ERT), part of the Joint Information Center.

What should Washington workers and employers know this week?

Oct. 8, 2020

What you need to know about…

Safe Start Plan updates


New, relaxed guidance issued for a number of business activities

Governor Inslee announced a series of changes to the Safe Start plan on Tuesday. Although all Washington counties remain in their current phase, this announcement significantly expands permissible activity.

  • Libraries - some indoor activity now permitted at 25% capacity in Phase 2.
  • Youth/Adult Sports - many school and non-school sports now permitted based on risk criteria.
  • Movie Theaters - operation permitted in Phases 2 and 3 with capacity, distancing, and masking requirements.
  • Restaurants - household member restriction lifted, maximum table size expanded to 6 in Phase 2 and 8 in Phase 3, alcohol service extended to 11 p.m.
  • Wedding Receptions and Funerals - capacity extended to 50 people in Phase 3, alcohol service and receptions can now go until 11 p.m.
  • Retail Events - outdoor retail events such as holiday bazaars now permitted with up to 200 people in Phase 3 counties.
  • Real Estate - open houses now permitted and up to five people permitted at viewings, inspections, etc.
  • Outdoor Races - new guidelines established for organized outdoor events
  • Water Recreation - permits operation of water recreation facilities on an appointment basis, including hotel and HOA pools, except for those with play features.

Questions about the Safe Start Plan?

Ask questions about workplace safety, Safe Start phases, relief programs, paid sick leave, unemployment and more. Our Business Response Center is standing by to respond.

Submit your question here.

What you need to know about…

Virus activity updates


Slight rise in virus activity noted statewide

The state Risk Assessment Dashboard indicates a slight rise in virus activity in the last week. The effective reproductive number is now estimated to be 1.4 in Eastern Washington and 1.3 in Western Washington - a figure over 1 indicates accelerated spread. Masking, distancing, and limiting gatherings remain critical to avoid a potential fall surge.


CDC updates guidance on how COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 is most commonly transmitted by respiratory droplets among people in "close contact". Close contact generally means direct interaction at a distance less than six feet. The CDC also maintains that spread is possible through surface transfer and potentially through airborne particles in poorly-ventilated spaces. CDC transmission guidance may inform safety practices at your workplace.

What you need to know about…



Department of Health issues "Tips for a Safer Halloween"

The Department of Health urges trick-or-treaters to mask up, observe social distancing, and limit close contact with non-household members. While parties and large gatherings are discouraged, there are still plenty of safe ways to have fun this Halloween.


Seasonal and holiday activities open to the public must comply with safety requirements

Seasonal events like pumpkin patches and small festivals, even if operated by nonprofits, must comply with relevant business activity guidance.

What you need to know about…

Workplace policy FAQs


May employers require employees to quarantine if they leave the state or country?

While there is no legal requirement of quarantine after leaving the state or country, the state recommends that travelers commit to a 14-day quarantine upon return, especially after returning from high-activity regions. Employers must avoid adverse employment action against workers returning from out of state travel. Remote work should be accommodated when possible.


May employers require testing or screen employees before allowing them into a workplace?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the ADA requires that employee testing be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” Applying this standard to COVID-19, because an infected individual poses a direct threat to others, employers may take steps, including testing, to determine whether employees entering the workplace have COVID-19.

What you need to know about…

Unemployment benefits


Job search requirements remain suspended but work search resources are available

The job search requirement of unemployment claimants will be suspended through Nov. 9. Claimants may continue to answer “no” to the job search question on weekly claims for now. Learn more on the job search requirements page.

Job seekers may turn to to find job fairs and connect with employers. Job seekers may even participate in 1-on-1 text chats with reps from participating employers and organizations.


Claimants should be aware that some benefits may be approaching expiration

Longstanding claimants may notice "Final Payment" status in their eServices account - this appears when available benefits have been exhausted through Unemployment Insurance (UI), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation(PEUC), Extended Benefits (EB) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).  Read the information on this page to learn more about PEUC and EB. It is normal to get a smaller-than-normal payment at the conclusion of any benefit program. When in doubt, keep submitting your weekly claims!

What you need to know about…

Small business and nonprofit resources, information


Small business webinars provide up-to-date info and live responses to questions

A monthly webinar series presents information specific to Washington small businesses. The series features brief presentations from state and federal partners and open-mic Q&A time. Topics include unemployment insurance, returning employees to work, relief funding, workplace safety, face coverings and other timely topics. The next webinar will be held on Oct.15 at 1:30 p.m.


Small business owners and entrepreneurs may register for upcoming Washington State BizFair

The 24th annual BizFair will be held on Nov. 10 - attendees will learn strategies to build or grow small businesses from industry experts. The event is free to attend. Interested attendees may register now and interested sponsors or exhibitors may contact This event is presented by the SCORE Seattle chapter, the Washington State Small Business Liaison Team (SBLT), Employment Security Department (ESD) and Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Stress and anxiety are normal. Talk it out!

The pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on our mental health. It's normal to feel anxiety and it's healthy to talk it out. Try calling Washington Listens - it's a non-clinical support line staffed by specialists ready to lend an ear. Call 1 (833) 681-0211.