State paves the way for reopening of venues
Mill Creek loosens rules on signage, outdoor dining
Last updated 10/2/2020 at 5:25pm
As the doors to event venues prepare to swing open, Mill Creek is already taking steps to help businesses make a comeback from COVID-19’s impact on bottom lines.
Gov. Jay Inslee released guidance Sept. 22 to assist those taking part in the reopening of venues, the brick-and-mortar buildings where public gatherings replace online and livestream events common to the era. Venues include convention and conference centers, meeting spaces, hotels, and event centers.
Only counties in Phases 1 and 2 of the state’s Safe Start plan are cleared to apply for a reopening of venues, and owners of those locations apply with a plan for reopening.
Snohomish County is in Phase 2. A map showing county phases is at https://bit.ly/2G41Mit.
This summer, Inslee paused all variances, meaning counties ready to advance to the next phase cannot yet apply, due to an increase in infection rates, said Heather Thomas of the Snohomish Health District. When the variance pause lifts, a county has to stay the same on data points pointing to a decrease in viral spread – those data points include confirmed cases, she said.
Counties have to “stay the same or improve,” Thomas said. She said testing is “one critical piece of it,” but in Snohomish County an element that is causing problems is contact tracing. Thomas said 20% of the people contacted by the county are not responding to calls. That lack of response can increase disease transmission, Thomas said.
Once the pause lifts, applications from counties for advancement to a new phase include a list of requirements. The Department of Health said counties must:
* Make testing available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms.
* Staff case investigations and contact tracing.
* House people in isolation or quarantine who can’t or don’t want to do so at home.
* Provide case management services to those in isolation and quarantine.
* Respond rapidly to outbreaks in congregate settings, where people are in close contact with one another: Congregate settings include jails and prisons.
The lift on venue restrictions comes about as the City of Mill Creek works to loosen other rules, in support of local businesses. Stephanie Vignal, councilmember and mayor pro tem, said Mill Creek is lifting its usual signage restrictions, normally so strict that neither banners nor sandwich boards are allowed in the city.
“What we’ve done is we’ve basically relaxed our rules on temporary signage until we reach Phase 4,” she said.
According to coronavirus.wa.gov, Phase 4 of the Safe Start reopening will free up all public activity while still requiring social distancing. Public activity includes concerts, sporting events, nonessential travel, and recreational activity.
The reason for lifting signage restrictions is so communication between Mill Creek businesses and customers can be clear. “A lot of people don’t know if (specific) businesses are closed,” so the visibility of signs can help, Vignal said.
Vignal said the city is also relaxing outdoor seating requirements as well. “A lot of people are more comfortable sitting outside.”
She said if businesses need guidance on how to offer outdoor seating, within city parameters, they should call City Hall.
The release of information by the governor’s office is part of the state’s Safe Start phased reopening plan is at https://bit.ly/32UctNu.