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caption: People gather on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at Gas Works Park in Seattle.
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People gather on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at Gas Works Park in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

King County (and Seattle) move to Phase 2, which means restaurants reopening

King County, home to Seattle, was approved by Washington state on Friday morning to move to Phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown. What does this mean?

  • Restaurants may reopen with less than 50 percent capacity and table sizes no larger than 5.
  • High risk populations must continue to “stay home, stay healthy.” High risk includes those ages 65 and older and those who are immunocompromised (i.e. diabetes, heart disease).
  • Offices may reopen but telework remains strongly encouraged.
  • Hair and nail salons reopen.
  • All outdoor recreation opens involving fewer than five people outside one’s household (camping, for example).
  • Nannies and housecleaners may resume work.
  • Retail re-opens: in-store purchases are allowed with restrictions.
  • Gatherings with no more than five people outside your household per week.
  • Limited non-essential travel within proximity of your home.

It's big news for many businesses that have been closed or only doing take-out, including Emma's BBQ in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood.

Tess Thomas runs the family-owned business (named after her mother), and is serving up ribs, greens and macaroni and cheese.

"At Emma's we are happy" about phase 2, she says. "We will still continue the no-seating because we are a very small place, but it at least allows people to be able to come in and sit down and wait."

Emma's BBQ is one of dozens of African-American owned restaurants in Seattle, and Thomas is taking particular precaution for health and safety due to the risks to the Black community, and because she's in the high risk age-bracket.

Something making Thomas smile during the pandemic: a friend had face-masks made that are covered in the Emma's BBQ logo.

Safe Start phases

There are four phases, with the first phase being the most restrictive. Counties must apply to the state to move up to the next phase.

To move up, the county must show, among other factors, that they have enough local hospital beds and enough protective gear to keep health workers safe.

No counties are in phase 4.

Three counties are in Phase 1 of reopening, including Benton and Franklin counties. Both those counties have seen higher spikes of cases than elsewhere in the state. Franklin County is home to the prison with the most coronavirus cases in the state.

Benton and Franklin applied to Phase 2 but their applications have been paused.

The governor instituted the phases approach to reopening to reduce “the risk of Covid-19 to Washington’s most vulnerable populations” … “while safely opening up businesses and resuming gatherings.”

Three other counties – Island, Lewis, and Mason counties – are moving to Phase 3.