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

14 residents and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at Regency on Whidbey. (Regency on Whidbey)
Virus outbreak reported at Whidbey long-term care facility

Eighteen people have tested positive for COVID-19 at Regency in Oak Harbor.

Xiaomei, a recovered mother goat, is now in good health after a bad bout of mastitis earlier this year. (Kira Erickson / Whidbey News-Times)
Whidbey woman takes in two goats deemed lost cause

With snacks, cuddles, massages and Chinese medicine, she nurtured the animals back to health.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, where a man with the first case of coronavirus in the United States is being treated on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Everett, Wash. Health officials said Tuesday that the man returned to the Seattle area in the middle of last week after traveling to the Wuhan area, where the outbreak began. The man, identified only as a Snohomish County resident is in his 30s, was not considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials said. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald via AP)
COVID outbreak at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett

With record-high infection rates, the virus can make its way into any setting, a health official said.

Hospitals put to the test again as virus patients surge

With beds filling, the medical system girds for a worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputies investigating body found off Highway 9 in Cathcart

The death of the 56-year-old man from Olympia is not currently considered suspicious.

Snohomish County deputy charged with child rape

Anthony Zayas, 26, claimed he did not know the girl he met on Tinder was 14, charging papers say.

thing
With a final tally, county closes the book on 2020 election

In spite of the pandemic, more voters cast ballots in Snohomish County than in any prior election.

The Point Wells industrial area next to Woodway, where a developer proposes to build more than 3,000 condos. (BSRE Point Wells)
Point Wells plan should abide stricter rules, critics say

Landslide hazard regulations drew scrutiny at a public meeting this week on BSRE’s longtime proposal.

A major fire broke out on the Everett waterfront Monday morning in an apparently difficult location. (Sue Misao / The Herald) 20181008
Everett boater gets house arrest for fraud in marina fire

He lost his boat in a 2018 fire. But valuables he claimed were destroyed weren’t burned. He sold them on OfferUp.

Most Read