All Washington State Department of Agriculture offices will be closed to the public until further notice, but everything remains fully operational, according to the agency.
"We're saying, 'for the time being,' because a lot of this is going to depend upon how the situation with COVID-19 develops," communications director Hector Castro told the Capital Press. "We're taking our cues from the governor's office."
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on March 23 issued a "stay home" order to non-essential businesses. Agriculture, food processing and transportation services are exempt from the order, as are grocery stores, medical offices, pharmacies, veterinarians and banks. The order expires at midnight April 6, though could be extended.
Castro expects the closure to last several weeks, but said everything is being assessed on a regular basis.
The agency offers regular testing for pesticide application licensing. Classrooms can typically have dozens of people packed "tightly ... elbow to elbow" for those tests, Castro said, so the agency is working to find other locations with the optimal amount of space between applicants.
The agency postponed several early testing sessions to find additional locations with more space, Castro said.
The agency is focusing work in its food safety division on the services that are most important for public health, and suspending some of the more routine inspection activities, he said.
WSDA staff members who are able are directed to work from home. Some staff members must be in the field or access systems that require them to be in the office.
"We're still available, our staff are still available," Castro said. "If anyone wants to get ahold of the agency or ask a question, utilize the website, e-mail and telephones, we'll still be responsive."
Reach the agency at 360-902-1800 or find specific program contact information on the website: www.agr.wa.gov/contact-us