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What should Washington workers and employers know this week?

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Sept. 9, 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?

Sept. 9, 2020

What you need to know about…

Child care and schooling

95% of Washington school districts will begin the year with a remote learning model

A district status map released by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction shows that all but a few school districts will begin the school year under a distance learning model. OSPI will maintain the map to reflect current status of each district, but it is best to refer to your district's website for the latest news.

Family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) child care may be an option.

FFN care is the most common type of child care for children of all ages.  Those interested in becoming FFN child care providers may start by reviewing the provider requirements. Family members, friends, and neighbors that provide child care may qualify as "eligible providers" for Working Child Connections subsidies that help families with low incomes pay for child care.

DCYF's Child Care Check helps families find licensed child care providers.

The Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families Child Care Check is an excellent starting point in your search for child care. Families may search for local providers and review background check status, licensing history, and report history.

What you need to know about…

Testing and screening of employees

Some employers may require that employees be tested for COVID-19

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the ADA requires any policy mandating employee testing be “job related and consistent with business necessity.” Because someone carrying COVID-19 is a risk to others, employers may take steps, including testing, to determine whether employees entering the workplace have COVID-19.

Temperature-taking, sending home symptomatic employees, and requiring medical clearance for return may also be permissible.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission further details other COVID-19 workplace scenarios in this FAQ page. Workplace precautions that do not conflict with ADA rules include temperature-taking, sending employees home that show symptoms of COVID-19, and requiring medical verification that a person ill with COVID-19 has sufficiently recovered and is safe to return to work. Employers may also wish to refer to this Department of Health guidance for employee or visitor screening.

Department of Health has issued guidance for employers considering COVID-19 testing policy

The Department of Health strongly discourages employers from requiring their employees to test negative before returning to work after a confirmed COVID-19 infection. People with confirmed COVID-19 infection who are not hospitalized can return to work after:

  • At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
  • At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and
  • Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving (Note: Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation)

People admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 may need to isolate up to 20 days since their symptoms first appeared. Testing an employee after recovery from COVID-19 is not generally recommended because recovered persons can "shed" evidence of the virus at very low levels and test positive for up to 3 months after illness onset. However, these individuals are not likely infectious to others.

It is the duty of the employer to enforce the statewide face covering mandate and provide a safe and healthy work environment

It is the responsibility of the employer to monitor employee observation of necessary safety requirements, including the statewide face covering mandate. There is no law that requires a worker to report a colleague in violation of the face covering mandate. ADA and Washington Law Against Discrimination protect workers unable to wear face coverings due to a medical condition or disability.

What you need to know about…

Safe Start updates and virus activity

County Safe Start Phase status remains paused

On July 28, county Phase advancement under the Safe Start plan was paused and remains so. The Phase status of each county is published on coronavirus.wa.gov. The What's Open page describes permissible activity in each Phase. The governor's Business Activity Guidance page details industry-specific safety requirements.

Agritourism now permitted in Modified Phase 1 counties

Some Agritourism business activities are now allowed under Modified Phase 1. Permitted agritourism activities have been expanded to allow for self-pick farm operations and some indoor retail and dining operations. Review other business activities permitted in Modified Phase 1 counties in this table.

Statewide new case rate continues to fall

While virus activity remains high, the new case rate and hospitalization rate have steadily declined since late July, according to the state's Risk Assessment Dashboard. The state average is 88.3 new cases per 100,000 residents and 3.1 hospitalizations. The new case rate is an important barometer for virus activity. OSPI guidance for school districts, for example, considers a new case rate above 75 to be "high virus activity" and strongly recommends distance learning in communities at or above that level. Social distancing, masking, and limiting social interaction with non-household members continue to be essential practices.

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…

Unemployment Benefits

Additional weekly $300 unemployment benefit payment to be paid to eligible claimants

The state's application for the Lost Wages Assistance program has been approved. ESD will start processing payments of $300 to eligible claimants for this new program on Monday, Sept. 21. Payments will be retroactive for all weeks for which the claimant was eligible, and for which funding is available from the federal government. Upon the processing date, eligible claimants will receive the funds as soon as their bank processes the payment. Refer to the Employment Security Department website for details.

Job search requirements to remain suspended through Oct. 1

The governor, with support from the Legislature, has announced that job search requirements will remain suspended through Oct. 1. The soonest that unemployment claimants must actively seek work is Oct. 4. Claimants may continue to answer “no” to the job search question on weekly claims until the suspension is lifted. Learn more on the job search requirements page.

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.

Stay connected


About Commerce

Commerce works with local governments, businesses, community-based organizations and tribes to strengthen communities. The department’s diverse portfolio of more than 100 programs and effective public and private partnerships promote sustainable community and economic development to help all Washingtonians thrive. For more information, visit http://www.commerce.wa.gov. For information on locating or expanding a business in Washington, visit choosewashingtonstate.com.


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