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COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges to employers and employees alike. Workplace health and safety is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 as well as building our resiliency in recovery. This page provides guidance for essential employers to keep employees and the public safe as well as resources for workers.


On March 23, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a Stay Home — Stay Healthy order which will be effective for a minimum of two weeks. The order requires every Washingtonian to stay at home, except for people:


Guidance documents

Guidance for essential businesses

The Governor directs businesses that can operate using telework to continue to do so. For businesses where individuals cannot work from home, the Governor’s Office has provided guidance on what businesses are essential. Many employers in the Healthcare Sector should follow specific guidance from the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Guidance for grocery stores to minimize the spread of COVID-19
Including posters to print and post for grocery shoppers and staff.

Posters for shoppers and staff in grocery stores

Posters for restaurant customers and staff to print and post

Guidance for rodent prevention and control for reopening buildings during COVID-19

Buildings or spaces that have been unoccupied for a period of time may be at risk of rodent infestations. Rats and mice are common pests in King County and the following are some tips to help you reopen your building safely. Even if you continued your pest control services during quarantine, you should still take extra precautions concerning rodents as you move back into your building.

See our page dedicated to information about schools and childcare centers.

Note: The scientific name of this novel coronavirus is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In people, the disease caused by the virus is called Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. In the context of animal health, the disease is referred to as SARS-CoV-2.

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Currently, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus, and the role animals may play in the spread of COVID-19.

Below is a summary of our guidance. For the full guidance document, please email Beth Lipton, Public Health Veterinarian, at Beth.Lipton@kingcounty.gov.


Pet owners

Pet owners should treat their pets as they would any other human family member and practice social distancing with other people and animals outside the household. Keep cats indoors and walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.

If a pet owner is sick with COVID-19, the CDC recommends that they restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as they would with other people. If an owner must care for the pet while sick, they should wear a cloth face covering and wash their hands before and after interacting with the pet. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are permitted to remain with their handlers.

General considerations for veterinary facilities

Veterinary staff should follow public health guidance for essential workers, including staying home when sick and implementing flexible sick leave policies. Additional precautions should be implemented to protect staff and visitors in the workplace. Ask everyone to wear a cloth face covering and provide each staff member with their own workspace and equipment. 

Veterinary facilities should postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent veterinary visits and should make a plan to support sick and injured pets through measures such as telemedicine, curbside services, and online payment/billing. The AVMA has a resource for Minimizing COVID-19 Exposure.

Veterinary care for a pet living in a household where a person has suspected or confirmed COVID-19

Pet owners who have COVID-19-like symptoms or is a suspected or confirmed case should not visit the veterinary facility and instead ask a family member or friend from outside the household to bring the animal to the veterinary facility. If a pet owner is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and must bring their pet to the clinic, actions must be taken that maintain physical distance and prevent the owner from having to enter the facility. Specific CDC recommendations for situations in which an ill pet owner must enter the facility or a house call veterinarian is needed are available.

Pets infected with SARS-CoV-2 and testing for SARS-CoV-2

The understanding of SARS-CoV-2 disease in animals is limited, though clinical signs of disease in mammals are expected to include: fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, nasal/ocular discharge, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Routine testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2 is currently not recommended. Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common cause of illness before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2, especially among pets without a COVID-19 exposure. If a pet does test positive, follow CDC guidance for both home and veterinary facility isolations recommendations.

Other resources

Workplaces rights and responsibilities:

  • Washington paid sick leave
    Employees have rights, and employers have significant responsibilities under Washington's Paid Sick Leave law, which was passed by voters in 2016 as part of Initiative 1433. As of Jan. 1, 2018, employers in Washington state are required to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

  • Washington paid family leave
    Paid Family and Medical Leave is a benefit for Washington workers. It's here for you when a serious health condition prevents you from working or when you need time to care for a family member, bond with a new child or spend time with a family member preparing for military service overseas.

  • City of Seattle's Paid Sick and Safe Time
    The City of Seattle's Paid Sick and Safe Time ordinance requires employers operating in Seattle to provide all employees with paid leave to care for themselves or a family member with a physical or mental health condition, medical appointment, or a critical safe issue.

  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Supplemental external links:

Contact/Where to get more information from King County

  • For non-medical questions about COVID-19, including compliance and business related issues, contact King County COVID-19 Business and Community Information Line at 206-296-1608, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • If you are a food business owner or a food worker and have questions related to your operation, please reach out to your Health Investigator or call 206-263-9566 to speak with office staff.