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City of Seattle Update on COVID-19 Response and Preparations

Seattle (March 3, 2020) – The City of Seattle is working diligently to support our partners at Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to respond to COVID-19. As of March 3, there are 21 cases of COVID-19 in King County, including eight deaths.

At the Mayor’s direction, the City of Seattle has been preparing for COVID-19 for weeks. Earlier today, Mayor Durkan issued a Proclamation of Civil Emergency, which grants her the ability to exercise emergency authority to address any immediate dangers to the public as a result of COVID-19. On Sunday, the Mayor issued a Directive to her Cabinet to formalize a series of ongoing actions within the City’s scope to respond to COVID-19. Among several actions, the Directive asks City departments to reiterate employee guidance on safety and best practices, prioritizes City efforts on behalf of our vulnerable populations including individuals experiencing homelessness, and ensures proper communications to our immigrant communities, including our non-English speaking populations. 

Residents should continue to regularly check PHSKC and DOH for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Seattle.

The following are updates from City departments:

Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) – The department has sent out daily updates to Seattle Preschool Program (SPP), Early Childhood and Assistance Program (ECEAP), and Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) providers. These communications convey the most up-to-date guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health. In addition, all SPP, ECEAP, and CCAP locations follow site cleaning policies and procedures as outlined in the Washington Administrative Code. Relevant codes can be found here and here. DEEL is working in close coordination with CCAP, SPP, Seattle Public Schools, and Seattle Colleges to monitor any potential closures. As of right now, all organizations remain open and continue to heed the advice of PHSKC. For more information, visit DEEL’s blog.

Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) – The department has increased the number of hand sanitizer stations in high-traffic City buildings, including the Seattle Municipal Tower, City Hall and the Seattle Justice Center. These stations were deployed in early February. FAS and its cleaning contractors are continuing routine cleaning and janitorial staff and contractors have been instructed to increase the frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces, such as elevator buttons and door handles. The City is also placing hand washing reminders from the CDC in all City-cleaned or contracted buildings. Similar cleaning and disinfectant procedures are now in place for the City’s Motor Pool. Additionally, the department is working to coordinate purchasing logistics for additional cleaning supplies that may be needed by City departments.

Human Services Department (HSD) – HSD is developing an action plan to manage COVID-19 impacts for people experiencing homelessness. Additionally, HSD’s Aging and Disability Services Division (ADS), which works with homebound individuals and people who need in-home care, is working closely with Washington State Department of Health and PHSKC to ensure coordination and communication is aligned with best home care practices and public health guidance.  

HSD is coordinating calls with service providers to ensure they are prepared to respond to COVID-19 and staff and clients are safe during an outbreak. HSD will continue to lead these calls, in partnership with King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) and PHSKC, with service providers to monitor staffing levels and resources. HSD has recommended that all service providers update their continuity of operations to ensure proper staffing, ensure protocols are in place for any illnesses, and deploy hygiene and sanitation recommendations.

Individuals living unsheltered face elevated public health risks. HSD is working with DCHS and PHSKC to identify resources to open additional emergency shelters, such as expanding tiny house village and enhanced shelter capacity or utilizing modular sheltering resources, in response to COVID-19. Understanding additional State resources may be needed as the situation evolves, the City is working with the State and DCHS to request these additional resources. Similar to previous emergencies in 2019 and 2020, HSI and the Navigation Team will continue to coordinate the City’s front-line response for people living unsheltered during the COVID-19 outbreak and are prepared to fully deploy all its resources to assist individuals living unsheltered. The team will continue outreach and is sharing PHSKC sanitation and hygiene guidelines and is distributing hygiene kits as available. In addition, there are over 100 locations where an individual can use the restroom, shower, or both in the City of Seattle, including our City-funded Day Centers, our Tiny House Villages, and our libraries and community centers.

In partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, HSD serves over 22,000 individuals at senior centers and 12,000 individuals through congregate or community meal programs. ADS is working with senior centers to ensure they are informed and following DOH recommendations and monitoring staffing levels. Many senior centers also offer congregate meals. HSD will work with senior center operators to monitor potential closures and to launch contingency actions if meals can no longer be safely provided in a mass setting at a specific site. For more information, visit HSD’s blog.

Office of Economic Development (OED) – OED is working with the Port of Seattle, Visit Seattle, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Puget Sound Regional Council, Washington State Department of Revenue, and others on assessing economic impacts, and will remain in regular contact with these stakeholders. In addition, OED is working in partnership with PHSKC to conduct outreach to the region’s largest employers, with their primary focus remaining on our small businesses in Seattle. These efforts include partnership from OIRA and the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) on anti-stigma language and translation of outreach materials, as well as an event scheduled for later this week.

OED will co-host a training with community liaisons, neighborhood business district leaders, business support organizations, workforce partners, childcare representatives, and business liaisons to advance outreach and education on COVID-19. OED continues to amplify PHSKC and DOH messaging directly to business owners, business districts, and other stakeholders via email outreach and social media. For more information, visit OED’s website.

Office of Emergency Management (OEM) – OEM continues to serve as the lead City of Seattle agency in our emergency preparedness work. OEM coordinates the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which began operations at 9 a.m. on March 2. The EOC develops and maintains situational awareness of COVID-19 impacts through tracking employee absenteeism, 9-1-1 call volume, and other activities as determined by the Office of Emergency Management. The EOC has been providing consistent, accurate public information and messaging to City employees and all community members and in multiple languages, maintain essential City services, and monitor and coordinate emergency response. In addition, OEM Acting Director Laurel Nelson Co-Chairs the Seattle Emergency Executive Board with Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and continues to coordinate with partner agencies at the local, state, and federal level to ensure Seattle is prepared to protect the health and safety of our residents.

OEM encourages residents and those who work or travel through the City of Seattle to sign up for Alert Seattle, the official emergency notification system. Alert Seattle will send real-time customized notifications via text, email, voice message or social media during emergencies including severe weather, safety, health, utility disruptions, major traffic incidents, and more. For more information, visit OEM’s website.

Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) – The department has recently completed a COVID-19 informational blog post with translations of Public Health – Seattle & King County recommendations and Washington State Department of Health helpline information in Amharic, Chinese (Traditional), Korean, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The office has plans to add additional translations later in the week. OIRA has also posted a number of in-language social media posts, which have been reposted or engaged with over 1,300 times. The department has also emailed in-language content to 119 contacts representing 70 outlets in Seattle’s Ethnic Media Directory, which has already been published and broadcasted this week. OIRA has also emailed this content to over 5,000 contacts that include immigrant and refugee community leaders, nonprofit staff, and grassroots organizers. OIRA is also discussing how the department can more rapidly coordinate the translation and dissemination of COVID-19 materials with PHSKC. For more information, visit OIRA’s website.

Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) – The health and safety of City employees and maintaining support for City operations is priority. SDHR is providing employee guidance to reduce risk of exposure to illness, according to job function, and the utilization of personal protective equipment. If employees exhibit flu symptoms, or fall ill, SDHR will provide guidance on a variety of options for employees to explore with managers – ranging from Alternative Work Arrangements where possible (including telework), leave options, and the Guaranteed Safe Ride Home program. The Employee Assistance Program is also ready to support employees with counselling, health, wellness and other resources.

Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) – SDOT is in close contact with Sound Transit, King County Metro, and the Washington State Department of Transportation to ensure the regional road and mass transit systems are operating smoothly. SDOT developed coordination systems in advance of the Seattle Squeeze and winter weather events, which helped establish stronger lines of communication with our partners. The department is continuing routine maintenance and operations activities that keep Seattle streets and our equipment in good repair. SDOT will continue to assist the City’s response to COVID-19 and overall City operations during the event in multiple ways: Crews will assist with major response calls and customer service and dispatch call centers can assist with large call volumes for City services. SDOT is also prepared to manage bridge or street closures and detours, monitor traffic flows and congestion, assist transit partners in bus service and provide data, assist schools with bus routes and access issues, and monitor the status of TNC/taxi services and Port of Seattle access and freight routes.

Seattle Fire Department (SFD) – The department has put measures into place to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading and to protect community members and personnel. 9-1-1 dispatchers are asking patients the right questions to keep crew members fully informed, and firefighters and paramedics are following a number of safety protocols when responding to emergency calls. If you see crew members in full protective gear, please know this is out of an abundance of caution. It should not be assumed that because you see firefighters respond with gloves, gowns, glasses and masks, that the patient they are treating has COVID-19.

If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, contact your primary care provider or call the Washington State Department of Health hotline at 1-800-525-0127. Help keep our responders protected by not calling 9-1-1 unless faced with a life-threatening emergency.

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) – SPR continues to be in communication with, and following the guidance of, Public Health—Seattle & King County (PHSKC), the City’s Office of Emergency Management, and Washington Department of Health regarding COVID-19. Currently, no SPR facilities are closed. If an SPR program is canceled or if a facility is closed, we will notify the public (either by direct email or phone message for registered participants, or by notices via web, social media, and media for the general public).

As a best practice to prevent the spread of viruses during this cold and flu season, and in response to general concerns over COVID-19, SPR is increasing custodial cleaning efforts at our facilities, including community centers and pools.SPR is implementing these measures to support basic good cleaning and hygiene care at our high-traffic public facilities, and not in response to a specific exposure risk.In addition to our already-established custodial routines, we will be implementing the following measures:

  • SPR will install Hand Sanitizing stations in lobby areas at our public facilities
  • SPR will increase the number of times that the following high-traffic areas are sanitized, with custodians sanitizing these areas three times during their shift:
    • Bathroom countertops, stall handles, and flushing devices
    • Entry/exit door handles and surrounding areas
    • Lobby countertops

For more information, visit