A closed down residential construction project along Rucker Ave. in Everett on April 1. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

A closed down residential construction project along Rucker Ave. in Everett on April 1. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Inslee: We are not close, yet, to lifting restrictions

As governor warns the lockdown may last awhile, builders offer path to freeing their industry now

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday spelled out conditions for bringing the state economy back online, as six statewide labor and business organizations presented him a detailed approach for one of the hardest hit sectors, the construction industry.

Inslee said the number of people infected with coronavirus must be reduced and the ability to rapidly test, isolate and treat those with COVID-19 must be enhanced before the state can “transition” away from social distancing restrictions that have locked down much of Washington for a month.

“Both of these things have to exist before we can push the go button for that transition,” Inslee said at a news conference.

Inslee’s approach mirrors that of the governors of California and Oregon, the three of whom have agreed to coordinate efforts to reopen their economies and battle the virus.

Washington is under a stay-home order through May 4. For Inslee to lift it, he said, the state needs to increase testing to track potential cases; bolster efforts to protect the must vulnerable from infection; ensure hospital capacity exists to handle surges; and ensure social distancing at schools, businesses and other gathering spots are followed.

A linchpin is testing. The present lack of widespread access to tests prevents Snohomish County and the state from knowing what percentage of the population is infected. Knowing how much is out there will influence decision-making on restarting the economy.

“We have had some success with our social distancing,” Inslee said. “We have to remain committed for a period of time to social distancing.”

It is a “blunt instrument” but a necessary one as the state, is still not “extremely close” to where those social distancing restrictions can be eased.

Meanwhile, developers, contractors and construction workers provided Inslee with recommendations on how to revive part of their industry in a way that assures workers are adequately protected against exposure to coronavirus.

In a letter delivered Tuesday, they suggest that residential and commercial projects under way when the governor issued his March stay-home order should now be permitted to start up again — but only if contractors can abide by additional rules to ensure work “is done safely so as to not take a step backward in this pandemic fight.”

Protocols recommended by the group include requiring contractors to develop and post at each job site a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control, mitigation and recovery plan. This would cover maintaining social distancing on-site, use of personal protective equipment, symptom monitoring and decontamination should it become known that a worker tests positive.

Every site must have a supervisor designated to monitor the health of employees and enforce the plan.

The letter is signed by the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, Association of General Contractors, Building Industry Association of Washington and Association of Washington Business.

They represent the non-government entities of a 16-member work group that has been meeting twice a week to discuss residential construction issues.

Inslee said he had not seen the letter but knew those groups had made good progress toward agreeing on a path. He gave no indication when he might review and respond to the recommendations.

He stressed, as he has before, that workers should not have to worry about returning to a job and getting sick.

Mike Faulk, Inslee’s press secretary, listened in on the work group’s meeting Tuesday.

“It sounds like all sides are making progress on some aspects of this issue,” he said. “We wouldn’t make any announcements however until that progress materializes into a consensus on paper that the governor could sign off on, assuming it doesn’t put safety at risk.”

Inslee’s stay-home order halted many residential and commercial projects in the county and around the state.

In Snohomish County, the governor’s mandate forced a pause on high-profile private projects, including Waterfront Place Apartments, a 266-unit complex at the Port of Everett; a residential and retail development under way at Alderwood mall in Lynnwood; and private student apartment development on North Broadway in Everett, a project which is not affiliated with Everett Community College or Washington State University Everett.

Almost immediately business groups and builder organizations began making the case that the industry could be reopened and construction carried out safely in hopes of convincing the governor to change his mind. Republican state senators last month asked Inslee to do so as well.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, renewed the call Wednesday.

“If Washington shares a vision with California and Oregon,” he said, “we should open up our economy to things like residential construction, as those states do.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Everett man dies after being hit by car in Island County

Jacob Weigert was running across State Route 20 toward a bus stop when he was hit Wednesday morning.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood police shoot at man during pursuit

The man is wanted on multiple warrants, including one for attempted murder, according to police. No one was hurt.

The “Village of Hope,” a tiny home community including 17 shelters, is set to open on Mission Hill Road in Tulalip in September. (Tulalip Tribes)
Tulalip Tribes to open tiny home village with 17 shelters

It’s called the Village of Hope. Monthly culture nights will feature classes in Lushootseed and “Tulalip cooking.”

Everett
Man shot at Everett apartment

The man in his 30s was shot Sunday night. No arrests had been made.

Arlington Public Works employees use The Big Sidewalk Sucker to lift a concrete panel from the sidewalk. The device saves the city some money and time to level ground below the concrete. (Arlington Public Works)
This thing sucks and helps repair sidewalks in Arlington

Public works crews can remove heavy concrete panels from sidewalks, so the ground underneath can be restored.

United Way of Snohomish County CEO Craig Chambers at their headquarters on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New CEO expected to reinvigorate United Way of Snohomish County

The nonprofit lost staff and funding during the pandemic. Craig Chambers wants to turn things around.

New LGI Homes on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Red-hot housing market cools, a bit, in Snohomish County

The amount of housing inventory is rising. Demand is slowing. Higher mortgage rates are a cause.

John McKeon stands in front of a mobile headquarters vehicle while discussing the funding needs of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the search and rescue headquarters in Snohomish, Washington. McKeon said a priority for the group is to find money for new covered parking for a number of vehicles that do not have a garage to be parked in. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue wants rescuing

They’re asking for nearly $1 million in federal recovery dollars, but funding has been hard to come by.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How to answer Snohomish County’s basic crime questions? ‘Transparent data’

An initiative funded in part by Microsoft could reveal racial disparities, while creating an “apples to apples” database.

Most Read