By Mark Harmsworth | Washington Policy Center
The majority of counties in Washington are now in Phase 2 of the COVID-19 reopening plan, allowing most businesses to operate and letting people go back to work. Recent comments from local and state government officials, though, indicate state leaders may be preparing to return us to Phase 1, putting people out of work and closing the economy down again.
On Thursday, Governor Jay Inslee said, “We cannot rule out the potential of another stay-home order this year.”
Comments from leaders in the south King County and Pierce County area Friday indicate they are looking for more resources should another shutdown occur.
When government officials start talking about “needing more resources” and “can’t rule out another stay-home order,” it means both options are under serious consideration.
As COVID-19 testing has increased, so has the number of COVID-19 cases. The reported deaths per day, however, have declined from the highpoint in April and May. About 904,000 people have now been tested in the state for COVID-19 with 51,849 confirmed cases.
During the first shut-down hundreds of businesses closed for good. Washington’s surviving businesses are just now starting to recover, and many will likely not survive another shutdown. Small business owners have extended lines of credit and taken loans to keep their employees on the payroll with the expectation that the shutdown would be for a fixed amount of time.
Surviving an uncertain future of a continued shutdowns will put many a small business out of business.
The other consideration is how long people are willing to sacrifice. The good will of many small business owners is eroding. Faced with a stark choice of government mandated shutdown or bankruptcy, many businesses may ignore a new shutdown order as they will have nothing to lose, since enforcement of the governor’s order would shut them down anyway.
State enforcement of a new shutdown will be problematic. The State Labor and Industries department is understaffed due to COVID-19 and unlike the first shutdown, many businesses will not be as compliant.
Washington business owners are quite capable of understanding what is needed to keep both employees and customers safe in the COVID-19 future. A business should be allowed to operate safely without government interference.
It is critical that the state take a cautious approach with COVID-19, but another full shutdown of the economy is likely to cause more long-term damage, from which, we may never recover.