Local businesses react to Gov. Inslee’s newest phase pause

KENNEWICK, Wash — After Governor Jay Inslee’s newest announcement regarding the COVID-19 phases, local business owners said they are “relieved.”

The new pause means that all counties in Phase 3, including Benton, Franklin and Yakima Counties, will remain in this phase instead of moving back to Phase 2.

“I have decided on this pause in consultation with our State Department of Health and experts because we are in a constantly evolving situation,” said Gov. Inslee. “Unlike any other time in the pandemic, we look at the most recent information literally on a daily basis to make these decisions.”

But for restaurant owner Michael Miller, the constant changes and “the unknown” have been the worst part of the pandemic from a business perspective.

“You just have to be prepared for whatever may come,” Miller said. “I think everybody’s just in the dark so everyday you have to figure out what to do in each situation.”

Miller said it’s tough being “at the mercy of whatever comes out.”

“There’s no direct communication,” Miller said, adding that the changing of guidelines immediately impacts both staffing and inventory.

“We had to limit our days at all of our restaurants because we can’t find enough people to work the shifts unfortunately, so not only is there the unknown of if we’re going to be open but also just can we staff?” Miller said. “We also do a lot of our ordering based on what the previous week was so if we make our order on a Monday and we find out on a Tuesday we’re going to be closed or limited, we’re going to be sitting on that inventory.”

Lori Mattson, the president and CEO for the Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce, said comments like Miller’s have been common over the past year.

“I’ve heard from dozens of businesses looking for predictability,” Mattson said. “So I was really pleased to hear that the governor has paused for a couple of weeks so that businesses can continue to stay at this phase.”

Mattson noted that business owners in the Tri-Cities are hoping to keep advancing toward the next phase.

“What are the metrics? How soon can we get open at full capacity?” Miller said. “We just have to remain vigilant and do whatever we can so that our economy can open back up again and eventually that’s really good for just about everybody.”