Anyone else having a case of déjà vu? As the number of COVID-19 cases begins to increase again, some states are re-implementing restrictions for their residents and businesses. The state of Washington has done just that, including the reintroduction of certain restrictions for its licensees, such as debt collection agencies, regarding occupancy of offices and recommending working from home where feasible. The new restrictions go through December 14, 2020.
On November 15, the governor of Washington announced new restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings and other types of establishments. This guidance includes a restriction on indoor gatherings and the following restrictions on businesses:
Professional Services are required to mandate that employees work from home when possible and close offices to the public if possible. Any office that must remain open must limit occupancy to 25 percent of indoor occupancy limits.
Washington's Department of Licensing issued a Q&A for licensees on these restrictions. The Q&A states that collection agencies "could be considered 'professional services'" per the governor's guidance. It continues:
Professional service employers must mandate that employees work from home when possible and close offices to the public, if possible. Any offices that remain open must limit occupancy to 25% of indoor occupancy limits.
The Q&A portion of the document states:
How do I know what my occupancy limit is?
The percentages for capacity are based on the overall occupancy of the building, based on fire code. The percentage calculation is for guests and/or clients and does not include staff.
Occupancy limit signs are often posted in building assembly spaces. Occupancy may also be found on lease agreements, permits for tenant improvements, or on approved permit plans. If unable to locate the building/facility occupancy, contact your landlord or local city permitting office.
Do the restrictions depend on what phase my county is in?
No. The new restrictions apply to all counties, regardless of what phase the county is in.
Why are there new capacity limits? Businesses like personal services already had capacity limits. The new limit is 25% of total indoor capacity.
Are the new restrictions dependent on what county my business is in?
No. The restrictions apply to all counties, regardless of what phase the county is in.
Talks of a "second wave" of COVID-19 cases has been going around since the beginning of the pandemic. The silver lining in all of this is that it's no longer our first rodeo. State governments had their first round of restrictions earlier this year, so this time they're acting with the knowledge they gained from that experience. Debt collection agencies and other businesses have already had to pivot to a work-from-home environment once, so they already have the processes in place to either continue to keep their employees at home or to send them home again. In other words, if you're having scary flashbacks to March, you can take ease in knowing it won't be the same scramble toward the unknown. Keep calm and carry on.