Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a construction-specific clarification to his statewide stay-at-home order yesterday, reversing his original mandate from Monday that appeared to exempt construction.
The clarification states that nearly all construction is a nonessential activity and should halt in the state, which has been hit hard by COVID-19.
While disappointing to Washington contractors who want construction to continue, Inslee’s memo did provide clear guidance on which types of projects and workers are affected, something that has been lacking in other jurisdictions' stay-at-home orders.
Construction industry associations and government agencies in states such as California and New York have fielded hundreds of questions from contractors who are confused about whether their statewide coronavirus shutdowns apply to construction.
Inslee specifically listed the types of workers that must cease operations in Washington, including “superintendents, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, laborers, sheet metal, iron workers, masonry, pipe trades, fabricators, heavy equipment and crane operators, finishers, exterminators, pesticide applicators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC technicians, painting, moving and relocation services, forestry and arborists, and other service providers.”
In the memo, he wrote that the only exceptions to the rule, which took effect last night, are for construction that is related to essential activities like healthcare, transportation, energy, defense and critical manufacturing; construction “to further a public purpose related to a public entity,” including publicly financed low-income housing and emergency repairs.
Boston shutdown continues
In Boston, Mayor Martin Walsh yesterday announced an update to his citywide construction moratorium, saying the timeframe for it is now indefinite, despite calls from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to lift the ban. The original ban on city-permitted construction, put in place March 17, was for two weeks.
In a letter from Baker’s chief legal counsel, the governor’s office asked that all state officials collaborate in their approaches to combating the coronavirus.
“The economic disruption and interruption in critical services and functions that could result from halting construction projects abruptly would be felt statewide and not simply in the locality where a particular project sits,” the letter read. “For these reasons, construction projects should continue as long as they observe social distancing protocols and can continue to operate safely.”
Despite the governor’s plea, city leaders in the nearby Massachusetts towns of Cambridge and Somerville also confirmed their commitment to continuing their construction moratoriums, with Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone tweeting that “it’s just not safe” to have projects continue.