By Dow Constantine, King County Executive
For almost two years, approximately one-third of our workforce has been working remotely as we fought to slow the spread of COVID-19. Remote work, where possible, has allowed us to continue to deliver our important services to the community while helping to minimize risk for the two-thirds of employees who have been working onsite and in-person throughout the pandemic.
Thanks to our vaccine mandate and the success of the booster program, and other precautions King County employees and residents have taken, COVID-19 cases are trending downwards, the risk of serious infection is falling, and we are beginning to emerge from the Omicron phase of the pandemic. This allows us to start lifting some of the COVID-19 restrictions we’ve had in place for many months.
I have maintained throughout the pandemic that in-person work for those able to work remotely will only recommence when it is safe to do so, facilities and equipment are ready, and the need from our customers is there. After consulting with Public Health – Seattle & King County and other regional leaders, I am removing restrictions on in-person work for remote workers, effective March 1. In-person meetings and events may also recommence with proper precautions.
Starting March 1, employees must wear a mask in indoor settings and enclosed spaces that are accessible to the public, regardless of vaccination status. This applies to all King County buildings, facilities, and structures that the public can enter, including public lobby and meeting spaces, public indoor recreation spaces, public service counters, and similar spaces open to the public. In areas that are not accessible to the public, employees who are fully vaccinated may remove their mask while indoors. We encourage and support anyone who wants to keep wearing a mask indoors. Masks remain required in congregate settings and health care facilities, including detention facilities and public health clinics.
This change does not mean that everyone must return to their worksites on March 1. It is the first step in the gradual transition to our post-pandemic Future of Work model for delivering services. Departments are now beginning to implement their Future of Work plans, which set out how services will be delivered moving forward, whether that’s in-person, remotely, or a hybrid of both. Your workgroup may be moving to a new building, site, or floor. In the coming days, department leaders will share the plans and expectations for your teams and operations, and these will vary from team to team across the county. For more information about Future of Work plans, please visit our Future of Work intranet site.
One thing we have learned in this pandemic is that conditions can quickly change, and I will not hesitate to reintroduce restrictions if warranted. We are learning to be nimble and must remain vigilant in the face of this virus.
We have learned a lot about the different ways we can operate and deliver services throughout the pandemic, and I am grateful for your ongoing hard work, resilience, flexibility, and commitment to our customers, whether you have been working in-person or remotely. I am thankful that we have now reached a point where we can begin to lift restrictions and look ahead to enjoying many of the activities we used to take for granted.
Please take care of yourself and continue to take measures to keep you, your family, and our community as safe as possible.