SEATTLE — Thousands of city of Seattle employees who have been working from home are returning to the office this week for the first time in two years.
About 35% of the city's employees are still working remotely. Mayor Bruce Harrell's office said it has made safety improvements at all buildings, like installing protective barriers for workers who deal with the public.
The city is requiring all staff to be fully vaccinated and mandating employees wear masks until April 11.
Harell announced his plans to bring back the city's workers to in-person work alongside King County Executive Dow Constantine in mid-February, saying, "These steps forward show we are moving in the right direction and reflect that our region's strong COVID response is the result of a united team effort. With City employees who had previously been working from home beginning to return to office in mid-March, I look forward to keeping up this collaborative spirit as we drive forward an equitable, community-focused recovery."
The move to bring back city employees comes as COVID cases and the hospitalizations continue to drop across the county and state.
However, Harrell said all workers would not come back all at once and that the city would bring back its workers over the course of weeks.
As the state and county have rolled back COVID mandates this month, including the vaccine verification requirement for King County restaurants as well as the mask mandate for most indoor spaces, Seattle has dealt with another impediment to bringing business back downtown.
Crime through its retail core near Third Avenue and Pike Street has caused at least two businesses to close and prompted Amazon to remove its employees from offices in the Macy's building on Pine Street.
Also, a homeless encampment across the street from Seattle City Hall was removed last week as Harrell's office and the county continue to focus on ending homelessness downtown.