COVID-19 'Stay at Home' order | Chamber helps members with questions, concerns, confusionThe Wenatchee World, Wash. — Nevonne McDaniels The Wenatchee World, Wash.
March 26-- Mar. 26--WENATCHEE -- The definition of "essential" and how it applies to individual businesses is the big question fielded this week at the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce.
"We've had a steady stream of calls since the order was announced Monday," Chamber Executive Director Shiloh Burgess said Wednesday of the state's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.
The new rules, announced Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee, shutter all non-essential businesses unless employees can work from home. It also prohibits residents from leaving their homes except to do "essential" things.
"The biggest question people have is, 'Does it apply to me?' The answer, most likely, is 'yes,'" Burgess said, though convincing business owners they are not essential can be difficult, especially given all the exceptions listed and businesses that are not specifically listed.
"Some folks feel their business is 'essential,' but under the Governor's order, it might not be," she said. "And the order doesn't speak to everything."
In response to some of the confusion, the state on Wednesday clarified that residential and private construction is not considered essential.
Business owners also are asking about the rules when they do go home.
"What is an essential trip?," Burgess said. The chamber's response has been to encourage people to stay home as much as possible. "We are asking folks to limit their outings for the next two weeks and see where it goes."
"I am challenging my own team to limit how much they are out in public, to take care of themselves. They ask, 'Can I run to the office to pick up something I forgot?' It would say, if it's not necessary, no."
Beyond the confusion about following the rules, Burgess said chamber members are concerned about how they are going to pay the bills and how best to help their employees.
The chamber is gathering information and resources to help answer questions, Burgess said. The website, wenatchee.org/covid19update, includes links to information on everything from applying for unemployment benefits to grants and loans.
The chamber also is conducting a survey of members to try and measure the economic impact. The data will be used to help figure out what resources and information are needed where -- things like financial, legal or supply chain needs. It also will be put to use later to communicate with federal, state and local electeds, which could help secure funding for the recovery phase.
"We are getting pinged from different government offices at all levels to provide information on different industries including hospitality, agriculture and more," she said.
The survey is available in English and Spanish. The survey will stay open several weeks, she said, and as things progress, some of the questions might change.
In addition, the chamber continues to offer a weekly online conference for members with the Chelan-Douglas Health District officials to get the latest information. That offering has been so popular it prompted a change this week to a new platform that allows for more people on the call. It means participants will need updated log-in instruction. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burgess said it is an interesting time.
"In some ways, it feels like we have the entire country and the world fighting against a common enemy. I imagine it's like families going through WWII. At the same time, it feels like we are about to navigate the Great Depression, with impacts on basic food, shelter and safety for some of our most vulnerable," she said.
Burgess said the hope is that the short-term sacrifices will pay off.
"We need to do what we can as a community, to bear down and make it happen, to take it seriously," she said. "It is unprecedented. We have a new understanding of what that word means."
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