OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Friday morning announced some construction projects will be allowed to resume amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
The resumption will be for “low-risk” projects and only with physical distancing and other requirements, Inslee said. He said once he signs the order on Friday, low-risk projects that fit the criteria and have a plan in place can start back up.
It remains unclear still when other businesses will reopen, Inslee said, because it would be too dangerous.
Inslee’s announcement came as his office this week released a 30-point plan to make sure construction sites can operate safely amid the new coronavirus once those projects are cleared to resume.
That plan is part of an agreement that was crafted after weeks of talks between Inslee’s office, building industry representatives and construction unions.
Inslee announced the existence of the plan in his Tuesday evening public address announcing that some activities — such as construction, outdoor recreation and elective surgeries — could soon start to back up.
“We’ve come up with a sensible plan for allowing limited return to construction with safety measures in place,” Inslee said in the address.
The governor made his announcement to reopen some projects in an 11:30 a.m. news conference Friday with representatives from the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council and others.
Inslee has said he won’t begin opening the economy until public-health indicators — like case numbers and projections for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, as well as hospitalization rates — look favorable.
The plan includes requirements for construction projects to have a COVID-19 site supervisor, according to a copy of the agreement released by Inslee’s office at the request of The Seattle Times. That supervisor is tasked with monitoring employees’ health and enforcing the job site’s safety plan.
Among other things, the 30-point plan lays out requirements for keeping workers 6 feet apart at all times, making sure contractors provide protective equipment like masks, gloves and goggles, if needed.
The agreement also puts in place measures to encourage workers to leave the worksite or stay home if they feel sick, or if they’ve been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
The plan comes as Washington’s economy suffers a steep drop-off in activity as society has shut down in an effort to save lives and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
By this weekend, the state might reach an unemployment rate above 15%, and accumulated nearly a million claims for unemployment benefits.