March 6: City of Seattle Update on COVID-19 Response

Seattle (March 6, 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 6, there are 58 cases of COVID-19 in King County, including 11 deaths.

Today, Mayor Durkan today signed a new Civil Emergency Order affirming that the City of Seattle will request state and federal assistance to respond to COVID-19. The Mayor has issued the Emergency Order under the authority of her Proclamation of Civil Emergency

At the Mayor’s direction, the City of Seattle has been preparing for COVID-19 for weeks. Earlier this week, 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, prioritize City efforts on behalf of our vulnerable populations, including individuals experiencing homelessness, and ensure 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 Education 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.

On Wednesday, March 4, DEEL sent all contracted Early Learning providers additional guidance regarding attendance and enrollment policies during the next month as well as reiterated communication protocols for closures and health and cleaning policies that sites should implement.

Currently, none of the 197 contracted childcare sites or 84 preschool sites are closed. Since Monday, March 2, there have been three City-funded Early Learning sites that have had one-day closures for deep cleaning out of an abundance of caution. They are: SeaMar in South Park, Launch at Highland Park Elementary, and Tiny Trees at Carkeek Park.

DEEL has been informed of increased absence rates at some early learning program sites; however, as of right now, all organizations remain open and continue to heed the advice of PHSKC. For more information, visit DEEL’s blog.

Department of Neighborhoods (DON) – In coordination with PHSKC, DON and OED will be holding a COVID-19 Outreach Training via a Skype Webinar today, March 6, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. This webinar is for outreach staff working with vulnerable communities and small businesses, as well as trusted community advocates and community and business organizational partners that City departments are partnering with to do COVID-19 outreach. Its goal is to provide consistent, accurate public information and messaging to their respective communities and stakeholder groups. The webinar will be recorded and made available through PHSKC.

Fourteen Community Liaisons will be attending the webinar training and they represent the following languages: Tigrinya, Spanish, Cham, Vietnamese, Lao, Tagalog, Cantonese, Mandarin, Somali, Korean, Khmer, Arabic, Amharic. Liaisons will be on standby to:

  • Review public health informational updates provided by DON staff.
  • Amplify accurate and consistent communications and messages to underserved communities and vulnerable populations with culturally and linguistically appropriate methodologies that are responsive and relevant to their respective communities and groups.
  • Provide interpretation through various modes of communication platforms, with a focus on virtual technology and phone options. 
  • Elevate and share community concerns, emergent requests and needs back to City Staff.
  • When needed, provide additional capacity and coordination in partnership with other City of Seattle emergency responders, which may include other regional municipalities.

DON is developing a “COVID-19 Report Out” to community organizations and emergency hub captains. This list will be expanded to include Block Watch captains following SPD consultation. DON and OED are leading a standardization process for tracking community events and meeting cancelations. In addition, DON is also tracking community needs and resources.

Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) –  The City has deployed additional cleaning measures, including increasing the frequency of cleanings for commonly touched surfaces, such as elevator buttons and door handles, and placing hand sanitizer stations in high-traffic City buildings, such as the Seattle Municipal Tower, City Hall and the Seattle Justice Center. Similar cleaning and disinfectant procedures are in place for the City’s e-Go Motor Pool and fleets. As a preemptive measure, the department has developed an enhanced cleaning and disinfectant protocol for City facilities, City fleets and e-Go Motor Pool vehicles in the event a City employee is diagnosed with COVID-19. The City is also placing hand washing reminders from the CDC in all City-cleaned or contracted buildings. 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 continues to implement resources to respond to 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, continues to work closely with DOH and PHSKC to ensure coordination and communication is aligned with best home care practices and public health guidance. This work is being coordinated out of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

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 has completed an assessment of service provider needs and worked through the EOC to purchase hygiene and cleaning supplies for direct service providers. These supplies are arriving today. HSD will continue to lead these efforts, in partnership with King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) and PHSKC.

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.

Yesterday, and in alignment with these priorities, Mayor Durkan announced major shelter expansion at three locations in Seattle to shelter at least 100 individuals. These shelters will be stood up in the next two to three weeks. At this time, the City is not expecting any of these sites to be quarantine or isolation sites—the county will lead on any sites needed for quarantine or isolation. HSD will follow direction for PHSKC to determine medical needs and agency support required to safely and effectively operate these shelters in relation to COVID-19. This is an addition to King County’s recently announced shelter locations for individuals without homes in need of quarantine, isolation, and recovery sites. 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, HSD 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. The Navigation Team has completed an assessment of several large unmanaged encampments to observe conditions and to gather information from individuals living on site to determine needs. This data is being compiled and will be shared with the broader outreach service provider network. New, bulk orders of hygiene kits are arriving for distribution. 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. HSD has learned a number of senior centers have altered operations and have shifted congregate meals to home delivery or to-go meals to reduce exposure risk for older adults. Please contact your local senior center for the most up to date information regarding operations.

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 impacted 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 a webinar intended for outreach staff working with vulnerable communities and small businesses that will take place today, March 6. OED will co-host this training with Department of Neighborhoods to provide guidance to 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.

OED will also be conducting a call with small business stakeholders to address COVID-19 and identify the economic impact to small business community through question and answer and data collection tools. 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, maintaining essential City services, and monitoring and coordinating 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 formally embedded its language access specialist within Public Health – Seattle & King County to bolster their ability to quickly make available translated and updated public health messaging. To that end, OIRA has added Arabic, Khmer, Russian, and Thai translations to its COVID-19 informational blog post, which contains both standard Public Health – Seattle & King County recommendations and Washington State Department of Health helpline information. OIRA has already posted new in-language social media posts linking to the new translated content.

Additionally, the office has emailed in-language COVID-19 content to 119 contacts representing 70 outlets in Seattle’s Ethnic Media Directory, which we have already seen published and broadcasted this week. OIRA estimates that our ethnic media messaging has already likely reached over 80,000 immigrant and refugee community members. The department is currently translating newly released updated public health COVID-19 recommendations into 10 languages. The department plans on sending another email to over 5,000 recipients informing them of these new translated resources. For more information, visit OIRA’s website.

Seattle Center: Seattle Center is operating on its regular schedule. It is employing extra measures to clean all surfaces frequently with disinfectants in Seattle Center Armory and campus venues, including Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Several events planned in campus venues over the coming weeks have been canceled or rescheduled including: Best Starts for Kids, March 6, rescheduled to July 20; Hip Hop is Green, March 6, rescheduled TBA; Pacific Crest Starlight Auction, March 7, rescheduled to May 29; Spring OneTour Seattle, March 9-10, rescheduled TBA; PEPS Luncheon, March 10, canceled; Friends of the Library Booksale, March 11-15, rescheduled to May 7-11; Taste Washington The New Vintage, March 21, cancelled; Bike Swap, March 22, rescheduled, TBA. Seattle Center Winter Fitness series has been canceled for the remainder of its scheduled classes (Circuit Training, Gentle Yoga and Zumba) through March 25. The program will return to Seattle as Seattle Center Summer Fitness, June 24- Aug. 26. For updates on scheduled activities and events at Seattle Center, visit seattlecenter.com.

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 and spread of illness, according to job function, and the utilization of personal protective equipment. The City is encouraging employees to telework where possible according to the City’s Alternative Work Arrangements (AWA) program. Non-essential, in- person meetings are being canceled or convened in alternative ways, such as Skype or conference calls. The City, under the guidance of the CDC, DOH, and PHSKC, may cancel a community meeting, event, or program. If employees are exposed to the virus, or exhibit flu symptoms, SDHR is providing guidance on a variety of options for employees to explore with managers – including AWA, 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. The department is keeping Seattle moving and safe by focusing efforts on transit, emergency vehicle access, and freight routes. Department staff remain on the job, disseminating critical transportation information, issuing needed permits, addressing any hazards in the right of way, and keeping streets and sidewalks in good repair.

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.

Following recent guidance from PHSKC, all Lifelong Recreation classes, trips, and drop-in programs for seniors are canceled starting Thursday, March 5 through the end of the month (details here). SPR has also canceled two Seattle Park District public meetings on March 5 and March 7 (details here).

Currently, no SPR facilities are closed. If an SPR program is canceled or if a facility is closed, the department will notify patrons (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 www.seattle.gov/parks.

Seattle Police Department (SPD): The Seattle Police Department continues to respond to calls for service. Police are working closely with the Seattle Fire Department to ensure the safety of our first responders. As a matter of precaution, patrol officers will be wearing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recommended by the CDC for law enforcement. Expect to see police officers wearing different styles of PPE while responding to calls for service, including disposable examination gloves, disposable gowns or coveralls, mask-style respirators, and eye protection. Officers wearing PPE is not an indicator that the COVID-19 virus is present on a call.

As always, please refrain from calling 9-1-1 unless you need to report an emergency.

The Seattle Public Library (SPL): While all locations of The Seattle Public Library are still operating with standard hours, the Library is canceling all programs, events, meeting room bookings, and Bookmobile services during the month of March due to current guidance from health officials and in the interest of protecting the high-risk populations served by the Library. The Library is taking preparatory steps in the event any Library locations are impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The Library is developing staffing and service models should it need to reduce services at any branches. The Library continues to follow best hygiene practices for workplaces – including regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment in buildings, making hand sanitizer available to staff and patrons, and encouraging frequent handwashing. The Library has removed toys, puzzles and other difficult-to-clean play items from children’s areas to reduce unnecessary surface exposure.

Please visit spl.org to learn more about the Library’s current response – we will continue to update it as this situation evolves.