Public health is working every day with our representatives, commissioners, and the business community to set the path for our economy to re-open safely, and as quickly as possible.
Since guidance for re-opening is continuously being updated, visit the links on this page often for current guidance on how to safely return to normal economic activity.
To keep us moving toward an open economy, we must maintain the basic health and safety precautions that have helped slow the spread of the virus: frequent cleaning and handwashing, social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and avoiding crowded places. Be sure to educate your employees about the symptoms of COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread, encourage workers to stay home and get tested if they feel sick, and encourage customers to wear face coverings.
Facial Covering Requirements
By Order of the Secretary of Health 20-03, no business may operate, allow a customer to enter a business, or conduct in-person business with a customer in any public setting unless the customer is wearing a face covering (exceptions outlined in the link above).
Reporting COVID-19 cases in your business
Employers who operate in healthcare and social service settings (e.g., senior living communities, homeless shelters, child care programs) should report cases to Public Health while maintaining the confidentiality of anyone who is sick.
Other employers (non-healthcare or social services employers) are encouraged to report cases to Public Health if they believe the virus is spreading through their workforce.
Testing Employees for COVID-19
Can an employer require their employees be tested? This depends on the situation. 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.” 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.
Should an employer require their employees to be tested for COVID-19 routinely or before returning to work? The Department of Health only recommends routine screening of asymptomatic employees in certain high risk situations (e.g., healthcare workers in skilled nursing facilities). Screening asymptomatic workers for COVID-19 only assesses the worker at that point in time and tests do not always detect people who are infected.
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 with confirmed COVID-19 infection who were admitted to a hospital may need to stay in isolation up to 20 days since their symptoms first appeared. Repeat testing after COVID-19 is not generally recommended because recovered persons can shed pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at very low levels in their nose and test positive for up to 3 months after illness onset. However, these individuals are not likely infectious to others.
ResourcesReopening the economy is important. We can do it safely and effectively if businesses, public health, community members, and government work together.
- COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Businesses and Workers from the Governor
- Okanogan County Economic Alliance COVID-19 Resources
- Business Guidance and resources for employers and business owners from the Washington State Coronavirus Response webpage.
- Business Signage Toolkit from Washington State Coronavirus Response
- Washington State Department of Health Resources and Recommendations
- L&I has released an Agricultural COVID-19 Requirements tool kit to help agricultural employers comply with the employee education requirements.
On August 7, 2020 the Health Officers of Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Kittitas Counties released Region 7 K-12 Guidance for Reopening to Classroom Instruction.
In this guidance, the Region 7 Health Officers state that based on best available evidence, they support the following:
- The county Health Officers do not support a return to in-person classroom instruction when the county’s incidence of COVID-19 is above 75 cases per 100,000 for 2 consecutive weeks (14 days).
- The county Health Officers do support a hybrid approach with K-5 and other educationally high-risk groups in-person in classrooms with COVID-19 precautions when the county’s incidence of COVID-19 is less than 75 cases per 100,000 for 2 consecutive weeks (14 days).
- The county Health Officers support return to in-person classroom instruction for all student populations, with COVID-19 precautions, when the county incidence of COVID-19 is 25 cases per 100,000 for 2 consecutive weeks (14 days).
- School districts may petition the local public health jurisdiction for an exception to these reopening thresholds and other standards. Such petitions should be founded in evidence, on a reasonable basis and with supporting rationale.
The current incidence rate for Okanogan County is available on the COVID-19 Data webpage.
For additional COVID-19 Guidance for schools, visit the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the North Central Educational Services District Workplace guidelines.