Camas-Washougal merchants prepare for next stage

County’s Phase 2 application on hold after COVID-19 outbreak at Vancouver food processor

"Wait here" signs show customers where to stand to be at least six feet apart while wating near the checkout stand at Juxtaposition in downtown Camas. Although the count remains in Phase 1, local retail shop owners are preparing for Phase 2, which will allow in-store shopping with restrictions at retail stores throughout the county.

A sign advertises curbside pickups at Juxtaposition, a furniture and home decor shop in downtown Camas.

Business owners throughout downtown Camas have been getting ready for the next phase of the state’s reopening — whenever that may be.

On Friday, May 23, Clark County public health officials said the state had “paused” the county’s request to move into Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase reopening due to a COVID-19 outbreak among at least 65 workers at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver.

“While this outbreak is unfortunate, our response demonstrates we have the confidence and capability to respond to situations like this,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s public health director, stated in a press release about the temporary halt on the county’s Phase 2 variance request.

Downtown merchants in Camas have been speaking to city officials and preparing in their own ways for a possible Phase 2 reopening.

Suzanne Ferguson, owner of Juxtaposition, a furniture and home decor shop located at 425 N.E. Fourth Ave., in the heart of historic downtown Camas, said she has been preparing for the next phase of the county’s reopening for several weeks — setting up plastic barriers near the checkout area and on display tables to help protect staff and customers, procuring masks for her staff, placing floor signs near the checkout so customers know where to stand in line while practicing safe physical-distancing of at least six feet, recording staff temperatures to keep an eye out for any signs of illness among those working at the shop and installing an air system that will pump more fresh air into the 48,000-square-foot building.

Ferguson said last week she was still on the fence about requiring customers to wear masks, but that she and her employees would wear them when customers were inside the shop.

The shop owner has already learned how to quickly readjust her business plans during the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, Juxtaposition held its grand opening just a few days before Governor Jay Inslee ordered Washingtonians to stay home and non-essential businesses to halt in-person sales in an attempt to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

“We had to be creative,” Ferguson said.

Instead of taking her time to build an online presence over the course of her new business’s first year, Ferguson pulled a Juxtaposition website and online commerce site together in mere weeks.

“We just scrambled and built the website,” she said. “And we’ve had quite a few online orders.”

She also decided to offer free local deliveries for purchases of $25 or more, offered gift cards and took to social media platforms, including Facebook Live, to help introduce her new store to the Camas-Washougal community.

Now, Ferguson is ready to move into the next phase of the state’s reopening.

Phase 2 of Inslee’s four-phase reopening allows retailers to offer in-store purchases with restrictions, including offering contactless pay options and the pick-up or delivery of goods whenever possible; adhering to the state’s requirement that a store have no more than 30 percent occupancy (not including employees) at any one time; placing markers outside the facility showing six-feet of physical distancing for customers waiting to enter the shop; arranging the flow of customer traffic inside the store to “eliminate choke points and reduce crowding;” and placing signs at entrances and throughout the store to alert staff and customers to the occupancy limits, physical distancing and the shop’s policy on masks.

Retailers also are expected to uphold the state’s sanitization requirements during Phase 2 and must provide personal protective equipment to employees, who are required to wear cloth facial coverings unless they are working alone and agree to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of their shifts.

Clark County remains in Phase 1 of the state’s phased reopening, which does not allow retailers to offer in-person shopping. For more information about the four phases, visit governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-reopening-guidance-businesses-and-workers.

Clark County Public Health officials said they do not have a timeline on when the county may enter Phase 2.

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