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Prioritizing Open Air Spaces in Pandemic Recovery Efforts

Businesses and public health officials are working together to develop guidelines to provide goods and services to the public safely. They're visioning creative ways to bring businesses outdoors and promoting al fresco spaces.
June 21, 2020, 9am PDT | Lee Flannery
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Al Fresco Gelato

As businesses begin to reopen to the public in cities across the country, officials and residents consider what measures are necessary to ensure public safety. Reduced occupancy maximums, distancing guidelines, and use of masks are among the stipulations of "Safe Start" recovery plans like the Modified Phase 1 led by Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Steven Fesler argues that businesses should prioritize open-air spaces, like al fresco streets, in light of recent evidence that the novel coronavirus typically spreads in indoor, enclosed spaces. 

"The Modified Phase 1 variance, however, only empowers the local health authority to impose standards on businesses. It does not empower Public Health — Seattle & King County to direct what local governments do to further advance the cause of the variance for economic vitality and public health," writes Fesler. Fesler says that local governments have generally left businesses in the dark without helping to develop plans to enable al fresco settings in their business models. 

Nearby cities are starting to take note. In Redmond, Washington, local authorities announced plans for more outdoor dining and retail in public spaces. Could yoga studios hold classes in public parks? These decisions will be made with guidance from leading best practices with economic vitality and aid in public health in mind.

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Published on Wednesday, June 10, 2020 in The Urbanist
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