Skip to main content
King County logo

After closing their doors to help weather the onset of COVID-19, businesses are gradually welcoming back the customers who are the lifeblood of the Seattle and King County economies. Visit this page often for updated guidance on how to safely transition to the normal economic activity that both businesses and their customers desire.

To continue economic progress, it is crucial to maintain the basic health and safety precautions that have helped slow the spread of the virus: frequent cleaning and hand washing, social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and avoiding crowded places. Be sure to educate your employees about the symptoms of COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. Encourage workers to stay home and get tested if they feel sick.

In accordance with the statewide requirement to wear face coverings, customers and employees must wear face coverings indoors or when not able to stay 6 feet away from others. More information about the face covering requirement.

The Governor's Safe Start Proclamation requires employers in King County (in non-healthcare settings) to notify Public Health – Seattle & King County *within 24 hours* if they suspect COVID is spreading in their workplace or if there are two or more confirmed or suspected cases among their employees in a 14 day period. Report cases online.

For additional links and guidance about reopening, be sure to visit our "Safe Start" page.

Guidance documents

Reopening guidance and resources for workplaces, including essential businesses, are available on the Safe Start King County page.

Additional health-related reopening resources are available in the menu of guidance documents on this page:

  • Restaurants and food services
  • Reopening a building that has been closed

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 visitors and residents at residential communities

Posters for restaurant customers and staff to print and post

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

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

  • Non-medical questions about COVID-19 including compliance and business related issues?
    • Contact the King County COVID-19 Business and Community Information Line (Monday - Friday) 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM at 206-296-1608, or submit a written inquiry or report online.
    • For employee health, contact tracing, or testing questions, please call the COVID-19 call center at 206-477-3977.

  • 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.