King County businesses brace for COVID-19 rollback

KING COUNTY, Wash. — King County leaders are almost certain the county will have to rollback to phase 2 of Washington’s reopening plan on Tuesday.

It’s due to the steep rise in cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19.

This news is being greeted with groans from businesses already hard hit by the coronavirus. They say business was just beginning to pick up, including at Pike Brewing Company.

“We’re both a brewery and a brew pub and we’re also a museum of the history of beer,” said Charles Finkel, as he walked through his Pike Brewing Company’s pub.

Finkel has spent decades in the wine and spirits business, but he has never experienced a year quite like the one filled with ever-evolving COVID-19 restrictions.

“We were closed for months and months,” said Finkel. “Then we were able to open. Then we had to close. Then we were able to open. Then we had to close.”

He says they upped their cleaning game.

“We are so clean,” he insists, “you could eat off the floor.”

They were thinking of rehiring some of those he was forced to lay off.

“And now with this new phase,” he said, “going back to phase 2 after we’ve been in phase 3 is just horrible for our bottom line.”

This is happening despite King County’s robust vaccination program. Health officials say the vaccines are making a measurable difference, but other factors are at play.

“So you have a combination of people relaxing their mask-wearing and the like,” said Dr. Deborah Fuller, UW Medicine vaccinologist, “getting out more in public, in combination with a more transmissible virus and that is a recipe for another wave. "

That fourth wave means no new stylists will be hired at The Collage Salon, a Belltown hair salon. Owner Lisa Faber says those already here will stay.

“We have a couple double shifting, sharing chairs,” says Faber. “But we won’t have to go back. At least we’re not going back to phase 1 (like they are in Pierce County). Yeah. That’s got to be heartbreaking.”

There might be some good news in all of this.

Dr. Fuller believes as more people get vaccinated and have protection against coronavirus, this rollback likely will last a few weeks not months.

She says we have the power to control this by continuing to mask up, keeping a distance and getting vaccinated.