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Phase 2 reopening, Washington
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Health care workers, businesses clash over bill to move state into Phase 2 of reopening

A woman heads into a restaurant with its windows covered by sheets of plywood, one block south of the State Capitol. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It was an overflow virtual crowd on Wednesday as the Washington state Legislature took up a proposal to reopen the state.

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Among other things, the bipartisan proposal in the state Senate would put the entire state into Phase 2, allowing restaurants to have indoor dining at 25% capacity. Supporters of SB 5114 say it’s about giving people a voice and a chance to survive the economic devastation the closures have had.

“Our business communities have proven to be protectors and not infectors in this fight against COVID-19, providing safe spaces for employees and patrons,” one business owner stated.

But health care workers pleaded with lawmakers not to pass this.

“We all have COVID-19 fatigue and reopening our economy is vital, but we must follow science and data,” a health care worker said.

“We’ll see how quickly a surge can overrun our capacity,” another health care worker said.

The proposal would allow for the potential to move an area back to Phase 1 if it had particularly concerning COVID-19 transmission rates.

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“This bill is about giving our small business owners a fighting chance,” said Republican Rep. Drew MacEwen, who introduced HB 1321, the House companion bill to the proposal. “They have done everything that has been asked of them, and somehow still find themselves in Phase 1 10 months later. That’s unacceptable. Many of these businesses are barely hanging on and will not make it under the governor’s plan. We need to send this bill to his desk, and he needs to sign it into law.”

MacEwen’s office said more than 1,000 people signed into the session on Wednesday to show support for the measure. Of the bill’s 16 co-sponsors in the state Senate, three are Democrats. Just one of its 15 state House co-sponsors is a Democrat.

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