June 29, 2020
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Gov. Inslee orders masks worn in public; halts any county moving into Phase 4 as statewide cases rise

Saying the novel coronavirus threat is still dire, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statewide mandate last week requiring face coverings in public. He issued even stricter rules in Yakima County, which has nearly as many COVID-19 cases as the entire state of Oregon. The orders took effect Friday.

“We just cannot wish this virus to go away," Inslee said. "We have to use tools that are available to us that we know, that work.”

The mask rule says anyone over the age of 5 must wear a face covering or mask while in any indoor or outdoor public space, unless six feet of social distance can be maintained outdoors, while indoors at home with others, or while alone in a vehicle. There are exemptions for people who cannot wear masks for medical reasons or who are hard of hearing. There are also exemptions while eating.

Violations are a misdemeanor.

In hard-hit Yakima County, Inslee issued a stricter rule that will bar businesses from operating or allowing customers to enter unless all customers cover their faces. Businesses in Yakima County that don't comply could face sanctions or loss of their business licenses. As of early last week, Yakima County had reported 6,435 cases of COVID-19 out of a population of 255,000.

The Seattle Times has more.

AWB's Rebound and Recovery page has a PPE portal with access to local producers and suppliers of face masks, rated masks, and other key gear to help businesses reopen safely and quickly.

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Now More Than Ever, Health Insurance Matters
Invest in Early Childhood Education

Fixing child-care shortage and Washington's economic recovery go hand in hand

By The Seattle Times Editorial Board

As Washington gets back to business, many job-seeking parents of young children face a frustrating double bind. Even if they do find employment that will help them provide for their family, the short supply of quality, affordable child care makes it impossible for them to take the job.

Nearly half -- 47% -- of unemployed parents cited lack of child care as a barrier to re-employment in a May survey, according to a state Child Care Collaborative Task Force child-care industry assessment. Since March, more than 1,100 licensed child-care providers have at least temporarily closed, exacerbating a shortage flagged by state lawmakers long before COVID-19...

Even before this spring's upheaval, nearly half of Washington parents reported difficulty finding and keeping affordable child care. Twenty-seven percent reported leaving a job, school or training because of a lack of consistent, affordable care, according to a Department of Commerce report.

This is not just a problem for working families; it is a drain on the state's economy. Commerce estimates that employee turnover and missed work due to child-care issues create an annual $2.08 billion drag on the state economy. That number triples when figuring in opportunity costs.

Addressing Washington's child-care shortage will not be easy, especially during the tough economic times ahead. But quality, affordable child care is a linchpin to the state's economic recovery. More must be done to ensure this essential sector does not fail.

Read the full editorial in The Seattle Times
Foreign Workers Support Our Economy

Big Tech isn't the only loser in Trump's visa freeze

By Tae Kim

On Monday, Trump signed an executive order that freezes access to a number of work visas through year-end, including the H-1B visa for highly-skilled foreigners, which is primarily given to workers in the technology industry. The issuance of new green cards will also stay halted until the end of the year. The administration said the order would free up jobs for unemployed Americans, adding it would block about 500,000 people from entering the country this year.

The move sparked an avalanche of criticism from technology companies. They said the measures will hurt their ability to recruit talent and have deeper negative ramifications for the economy.

An Amazon.com Inc. spokesperson called the order "shortsighted," adding it prevents "high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America's economic recovery, [putting] American's global competitiveness at risk."

A Facebook Inc. representative said Trump is using the pandemic as justification for "limiting" immigration, which will make "our country's recovery even more difficult."

And Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith said on social media, "Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world's talent or create uncertainty and anxiety."

Read the full column in The Seattle Times