Washington’s COVID-19 State of Emergency Ends October 31: What Does this Mean for Local Governments?

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October 6, 2022 
by 

Flannary Collins



Class: 

Open Public Conferences Act

COVID-19


Editor’s be aware: This weblog was up to date to notice {that a} COVID-19 pandemic federal state of emergency continues to be in impact, and to make clear notification necessities and the circumstances beneath which native governing our bodies can proceed to carry remote-only conferences. 



On February 29, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 well being disaster, Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency for the State of Washington. Now, over two and a half years later, that state of emergency and all remaining emergency proclamations are scheduled to be lifted on October 31, 2022 (see the governor’s press launch).


The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extended and exhausting expertise for residents and governmental companies within the State of Washington, and whereas COVID-19 stays a actuality, the state governmental restrictions related to the pandemic will largely be a factor of the previous by the tip of this month.


Background


Governor Inslee’s February 29, 2020, state of emergency declaration gave him broad authority to ban actions that he fairly believed was essential “to assist protect and keep life, well being, property or the general public peace” and to waive or droop sure statutes and guidelines (RCW 43.06.220).


Primarily based on this state of emergency, Governor Inslee issued quite a few proclamations, together with a shelter-in-place requirement, a masks mandate, vaccination necessities for sure employees, a proof of vaccination or adverse take a look at requirement to attend massive occasions, an eviction moratorium, a prohibition on utility shutoffs and late charges, a waiver of the requirement to have in-person open public conferences, and extra. It was — rather a lot.


The aim of this weblog is to evaluate what influence native governments will expertise as soon as the emergency formally ends. As detailed under, since almost three-quarters of the emergency proclamations have already been lifted, native governments will see little influence after the remaining proclamations and the underlying state of emergency are lifted.


Whereas the governor has not but formally rescinded the declaration of emergency and related emergency proclamations, here’s what we count on to occur if and when that happens on October 31.


Open Public Conferences


Through the peak of the pandemic, Proclamation 20-28 et seq. prohibited governing our bodies from assembly in-person, as a substitute requiring governing our bodies to carry conferences on a distant platform. Later, that restriction loosened a bit, permitting for non-obligatory in-person conferences whereas nonetheless requiring a distant platform.


The distant public assembly requirement and restrictions on holding in-person public conferences expired June 1, 2022 (see our weblog OPMA/PRA Emergency Proclamation Will Expire June 1). Upon expiration of the proclamation, the newly revised OPMA utilized. (For a refresher on the OPMA adjustments over the past legislative session, see my weblog The OPMA Will get an Replace from the Legislature.)


Underneath RCW 42.30.230 the present standing of open public conferences is that they should be held at a bodily location the place the general public can attend, until a neighborhood, state, or federal emergency has been declared and the general public company determines it can’t maintain an in-person assembly with cheap security. Whereas state regulation encourages companies to supply a distant attendance possibility together with its in-person possibility (see RCW 42.30.030), they’re not required to take action.


Whereas the state’s declaration of emergency will likely be lifted, native governments can nonetheless depend on their very own declared state of emergency or the federal declaration of emergency to carry a completely distant assembly in the event that they element their reasoning why the native emergency prevents them from assembly in particular person.


Vaccine Mandates


COVID-19 vaccine mandates had been a scorching (and controversial) matter on the peak of the pandemic. Whereas some employers selected to undertake a neighborhood requirement that their workers be vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, sure positions had been required to be vaccinated by the state (most just lately Proclamation 21-14.5). Notably for native governments, employees within the healthcare/childcare settings (together with many firefighters and emergency medical technicians) had been required to be vaccinated in opposition to the virus. After October 31, 2022, this can not be a requirement and — absent any native coverage on the contrary — non-vaccinated people might be employed (or re-hired) into these healthcare/childcare positions.


As famous in Governor Inslee’s September 8 press launch:


Vaccination necessities for well being care and schooling employees will finish, however employers will proceed to have the ability to require them in the event that they select. Inslee has already introduced that COVID-19 vaccination will stay a situation of employment for many Washington state companies.


Masks Necessities


Much like vaccine mandates, masks necessities have additionally largely disappeared, with few if any native governments (exterior of public hospitals) requiring facial coverings within the office. Any remaining masks mandate necessities had been issued by the state Secretary of Well being, and people are anticipated to proceed after October 31, 2022. (The most up-to-date Secretary of Well being Order 20-03.9 requires face masks in correctional and jail services when the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention‘s COVID-19 stage is medium or excessive within the county the place the power is positioned, in addition to in well being care and long-term care settings whatever the county’s COVID-19 stage.)


As well as, it’s anticipated that the governor will undertake protections for employees who select to put on a face masks. The governor’s September 8 press launch states:


The statewide Face Masking Order issued by the state Division of Well being will stay in place for well being care and long-term care sittings, in addition to correctional services beneath sure circumstances after the state of emergency ends. The governor can also be taking a look at choices to make sure there are protections for employees who select to put on a masks of their office.


Notification and Monitoring Necessities


Proclamation 20-25.19, often known as “Washington Prepared,” features a provision that requires employers to inform their native well being district if they think COVID is spreading of their office. That notification requirement will terminate with the lifting of the emergency on the finish of this month. Whereas that proclamation is expiring, the next notification necessities in RCW 49.17.062-.064 nonetheless apply till the president rescinds the nationwide COVID-19 emergency declaration:


  • Notification to the Washington Division of Labor and Industries (L&I) when ten or extra workers have examined optimistic for COVID-19, and  
  • Notification to workers when the employer receives a discover of potential publicity to COVID-19.


For extra data on employer obligations, see the L&I necessities and steerage for stopping COVID-19.


Moreover, Proclamation 20-64.5 can also be nonetheless in impact and expressly prohibits public companies from releasing sure data associated to COVID-19 contact tracings or logs. Though this specific prohibition will not be in impact after the lifting of the emergency, the proclamation was actually a belts-and-suspenders strategy to exempting contact tracing logs from public disclosure. As detailed within the proclamation, the next exemptions can possible be utilized to guard contact tracing logs from public disclosure:


  • RCW 42.56.230(1) exempts private data in recordsdata maintained for “sufferers or purchasers” of “public well being companies”;
  • RCW 42.56.270(1) and, as an “different statute” in RCW 42.56.070(1), chapter 19.108 RCW, the Uniform Commerce Secrets and techniques Act, might apply to customer and buyer log data collected by companies and offered to a public well being company for contact tracing following a brand new case of an infection as proprietary data and analysis information.


Different Miscellaneous Issues


Proclamation 20-78 restricted mixed metropolis and county well being departments and any members of a well being district from enterprise efforts to terminate or withdraw from the division or district. This restriction will finish as soon as the emergency is lifted.


The state adopted office security and well being guidelines in the course of the pandemic to guard high-risk workers from being discharged, changed, or discriminated in opposition to within the office for searching for lodging from publicity to an infectious or contagious illness throughout a public well being emergency. These protections are solely triggered when a public well being emergency that covers each county within the state is asserted by both the U.S. President or the Washington State Governor. Whereas the state’s emergency will finish on October 31, 2022, the federal state of emergency continues to be in impact so these guidelines will proceed to use till President Biden lifts the nationwide emergency.


Whereas not related to the governor’s emergency proclamation, some companies did undertake administrative or different particular paid depart for many who had been required to quarantine because of COVID-19. Employers might proceed with these insurance policies at their discretion: One factor to notice is that the CDC up to date its quarantine steerage a while in the past, recommending 5 days quarantine for many who take a look at optimistic for COVID-19.


Extra Data


MRSC’s COVID-19 Governor’s Proclamations and State Steering webpage supplies further historical past about emergency proclamations associated to the pandemic and their standing. As soon as the governor points the lifting of the emergency order, we’ll replace this weblog and associated webpages, as essential.


MRSC is a personal nonprofit group serving native governments in Washington State. Eligible authorities companies in Washington State might use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get solutions to authorized, coverage, or monetary questions.

About Flannary Collins

Flannary Collins is the Managing Lawyer for MRSC. Flannary first joined MRSC as a authorized advisor in August 2013 after serving as assistant metropolis lawyer for town of Shoreline the place she suggested all metropolis departments on a variety of points.

At MRSC, Flannary enjoys offering authorized steerage to municipalities on all municipal points, together with the OPMA, PRA, and personnel. She additionally serves on the WSAMA Board of Administrators as Secretary-Treasurer.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Flannary Collins

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