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Business adapts to Phase 2 of reopening

'I love my business, but I love my children more'

Series: Coronavirus | Story 121

Last updated 6/19/2020 at 9:08am

Beacon photo by Emily Gilbert

There's been a noticeable uptick in foot traffic on Main Street in Mill Creek since Snohomish County entered Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee's coronavirus reopening plan earlier this month, according to Paddywack's owner, Shane Somerville.

Snohomish County was approved for Phase 2 on June 5, and some restrictions were lifted immediately, like limits to in-person retail shopping. 

"We've had a lot of people, especially on first Saturday. We had a line when opened the door people excited to come out and shop; one said it was the 'highlight of my day' so that was really, really nice. We had a lot of people who were excited to be back, to see us, talk to us – their dogs too, because they have no idea why we were closed," Somerville, who owns the pet store on Main Street, said.

Entering Phase 2 allowed many businesses to reopen for the first time since March, although many had offered curbside pickup or online sales in the meantime. 

Somerville said her store still offers curbside pickup and will continue doing so as long as people want the option. Her son has asthma, and she has a breathing disorder herself, she said, so she understands why some customers are taking extra precautions.

"I love my business, but I love my children more. If I have a kid who is particularly vulnerable, we're going to be extremely protective about his health," she said

Customers who do choose to enter Paddywack, and most other stores in Phase 2 counties, obviously find that the shopping experience is different from pre-virus days. 

In keeping with public health requirements, the staff at Paddywack limit the number of people inside the store and ask customers to wear masks (if they don't have one, staff will give them one, Somerville said). Most customers were receptive to the new requirements, but Somerville said a few have pushed back. 

One shopper was annoyed by having to wait to be let in (the store already had the maximum number of people allowed inside). 

"He was very unhappy and said 'You're in on this hoax, too.' I know there are definitely people who are facing health challenges that make it difficult or impossible to wear a mask. Some people can't wear masks and I respect that," Somerville recalled. She said they offer curbside pickup to those customers. 

According to the governor's office, retail stores offering in-person shopping must limit customer traffic to 30% of maximum occupancy set by the fire district (the limit excludes employees), try to keep people 6 feet away from each other (or install a barrier in situations where people may be closer than 6 feet apart), and require all employees to wear a cloth face covering. The requirements don't say that customers must wear a mask, but do say that the business must let customers know of their mask-wearing policy.

"All I can say is as a business owner, as an employer, I feel like I have a really important job to make sure my staff and my customers are as safe as possible. And, I obviously want to keep myself and my family safe, too."

While Phase 2 does reopen some businesses and activities, there are still restrictions in place that residents should be aware of. In Phase 2, general guidelines allow:

-Gatherings with no more than five people from outside a household per week. This includes outdoor recreation like camping, hiking, or beach trips;

–In-store retail shopping (with restrictions);

–Restaurants at 50% capacity or less, no more than five people per table, and no bar seating;

–Hair and nail salons;

–Real estate;

–Pet grooming;

–Office-based businesses;

–Nannying, house cleaning, and other domestic services;

–Additional construction and manufacturing that wasn't allowed in Phase 1.

Gyms, libraries, movie theaters, and museums won't be allowed to open until Phase 3. Although there are many who are happy with the newfound freedom, health officials ask that people still be cautious and follow social distancing guidelines.

Said Snohomish Health District: "We don't have a firm date or timeline for the third and fourth phases, and social distancing measures may have to be reinstated and then re-lifted along the way.

"It is important to keep in mind that things could change and that the details of what activities and businesses are allowed within each phase may be modified.

"What we do know is that we have been working diligently to get to Phase 2. But getting to future phases will require everyone to contribute and cooperate."


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