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COVID-19 Update; East Marginal Project Letter of Support for Grant Funding; Duwamish Longhouse Bus Access Walk; February Constituent Email Report

COVID-19 Update

As of this morning, Public Health – Seattle & King County confirmed 58 cases of novel coronavirus in King County residents, including 10 deaths.  231 residents in the State are under public health supervision for being at risk of exposure.  As more laboratory capacity for testing comes online, more tests and results will be reported.  The  Department of Health website for coronavirus is an excellent resource for anyone with questions about coronavirus and how to keep yourself safe.

Take Action To Stop The Spread

There is a LOT we can do as individuals to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep ourselves and loved ones safe.  Simple steps are extremely powerful.

  • Don’t touch your face (especially around your eyes, nose and mouth)
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water are not available, use at least a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with an elbow sleeve or tissue
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed: stay home, and contact your doctor or the coronavirus hotline: 206-477-3977 between 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM PT.
  • For general concerns and questions,call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.

To slow the spread/transmission, King County Public Health has made recommendations in consultation with the federal Centers for Disease Control, based on the best information we have currently to protect the public’s health.  These recommendations include:

  • Not holding gatherings of more than 10 people
  • Staying at home if you are over 60 or have underlying medical conditions
  • Working from home if you are able

Seattle’s State of Emergency Proclamation & Resolution

This is a critical moment in the outbreak in our region.  On Thursday the Council called a special Full Council meeting where we heard an update from the Executive on the City and County response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). I encourage you to watch the briefing here at this link.  In attendance were:

  • Deputy Mayors Mike Fong and CaseySixkiller
  • Chief Harold Scoggins, Seattle Fire Department
  • Dennis Worsham, Seattle-King County Public Health
  • Acting Director Laurel Nelson, Office of Emergency Management
  • Director Cuc Vu, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
  • Director Andres Mantilla, Department of Neighborhoods
  • Director Bobby Lee, Office of Economic Development
  • Interim Director Jason Johnson, Human Services Department
  • Director Ben Noble, City Budget Office
  • Superintendent Jesús Aguirre, Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Retired Director Barb Graff, Office of Emergency Management

The primary issues of concern that I raised at this meeting included:

  1. I asked how many tests had been done in King County, recognizing that a. as of Wednesday night only 600 tests had been done across the entire county and b. approval locally for the first lab to analyze test results had only occurred the previous Friday. I did not receive a response to the question of how many tests have been done in King County. However, MSNBC has reported that 100 people have been tested in our region.
  2. I asked if testing protocols permitted first responders to be prioritized for testing. Chief Scoggins indicated that they did.
  3. I asked why all City Departments, as of Wednesday, were still expressing concern for lack of necessary supplies and lack of consistent cleaning protocols. The response was that this was a mission-critical priority for the Executive and that our approval of the Mayor’s Proclamation of Emergency would allow the Executive to expedite procurement of necessary supplies. As of 5:30pm today, city-wide cleaning protocols were released by FAS.
  4. I shared that I had been contacted by a West Seattle business that was reporting 20-30% negative year over year comparative sales for several businesses, where they were 5-10% positive over last year before the health crisis. The response to this was that OED is working to access federal funding to help local businesses.
  5. When told that the Human Services Department (HSD) was working with our human services providers on readiness, I asked how we were helping in those instances that they needed supplies. In response, I was told that HSD was facilitating a bulk purchase for our human services providers.
  6. When told that hygiene kits were being distributed by the Navigation Team to individuals living unsheltered, I ask how many had been distributed and over what time period. The answer to this question was unavailable.
  7. Understanding that the CDC guidance for testing requires a health provider’s recommendation for testing, I asked whether public health professionals working with people living outside are empowered to recommend a person for testing in those instances that a person living unsheltered has no primary care physician or is unlikely to go to a health clinic. The answer to this question was unavailable.

At this meeting the council also affirmed the Mayor’s proclamation of emergency as amended and passed a resolution.

Under the Mayor’s proclamation of emergency, she can forgo legal requirements for making temporary hires, contracting, spending, and assuming debt. The Mayor can also now open new necessary facilities to address the emergency without the permits and notice usually required.

Changes made by the Council to the Mayor’s proclamation of emergency included the following:

  • Verification and submittal of emergency purchases and contracts to the City Council
  • A requirement to list and describe all actions taken that would otherwise have been subject to the notice requirements of SMC Chapter 25.05 (for regulatory permits)
  • A requirement for a future order by the Mayor or the Board of Public Health – Seattle / King County before any actions by the Fire Chief or Police Chief are taken to enforce anything other than existing laws and regulations

The resolution states that the Council will reevaluate the civil emergency by April 5 and includes these specific requests for expenditures:

  • Hand washing stations
  • Hygiene services such as mobile pit stops, as approved in the 2020 adopted budget
  • Investments that increase access for lower income persons to COVID-19 testing
  • Investments in culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach materials for limited English proficiency communities

Further, the resolution asks the executive to review:

  • Options for City staff and contractors to take paid days off, if their leave runs out, especially in the case of hourly, new and temporary workers
  • An analysis of the Race and Social Justice implication of exercising emergency powers
  • Consideration of how emergency powers could impact homeless communities
  • Issuance of an order related to economic controls and price stabilization on products that may be used by the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as disinfectants and hand sanitizer, and price controls on essentials for survival such as housing and shelter
  • Identification of actions the City can take:
  • To encourage service sector employers, gig economy employers, and employers whose activities require close proximity to large segments of the public to provide sanitary and safe working conditions and to allow their employees to use paid sick time for time away from work for public health purposes, other than sick leave; and
  • To discourage and prevent punitive actions against employees who miss work because of illness or public health reasons.

The resolution also requests the Executive provide a weekly report to Council including:

  • Emergency expenditures by departments
  • New contracts entered into or amendments to existing contracts, including information on contract amount and contracted-for service
  • New permanent and term-limited positions added or empty positions filled to address the civil emergency, as well as temporary staffing re-assignments
  • A list detailing whether and how enforcement of current criminal and civil laws and regulations are being prioritized to address the public health, safety, and welfare, and
  • For each action taken pursuant to civil emergency, any limitation identified by Seattle Municipal Code Section, adopted financial policy, or other governing internal or external regulation or statute to the action being taken without emergency authority.

The Council also identified in the resolution that city staff and contractors should work from home as much as practical.

The City Council President, Lorena González, and Council President Pro Tem Teresa Mosqueda issued a directive for the entire Legislative Department, through March 31 (or until they are lifted by the Council President/President Pro Tem), to:

  1. Direct all Department employees to work remotely to the greatest extent possible.
  2. Advise City Council committee chairs to cancel committee meetings until further notice.
  3. Endeavor to conduct all official Full Council and special meetings remotely, utilizing appropriate technology, in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act.

As new information is available from public health officials, this directive will be continuously evaluated.

Viruses Don’t Discriminate

I want to be clear that Coronavirus doesn’t recognize race, nationality or ethnicity. Having Chinese ancestry – or any other ancestry – does not make a person more vulnerable to this illness.  Misinformation about coronavirus can create fear and hostility that hurts people, and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy.

Staying Healthy

Many of us work in places with easy access to handwashing stations, and can use sick & safe leave, or access health care via insurance provided by our employers. Or if we’re sick, we can stay home, care for a family member or get in to see a doctor on the same day we have symptoms that concern us.  However, that’s not the case for everyone:

  • Our first responders — fire, police, nurses, doctors, care givers, public health scientists don’t get to call in sick.
  • Or the teachers, staff and custodians who are asked to stay behind and “sanitize” the school while their students and many of their parents stay home during the exercise.
  • Or the folks who provide us services that we rely on, perhaps even more at times like these: those who sell us the hand sanitizer, who deliver our grocery or online orders, who drive the buses, who carry our mail, who prepare our food.

It’s their job and they do it because no one else can or will.  They risk their health and safety to keep US safe.  I want to recognize and thank them for that.

Steps Taken Already

We must take this health crisis seriously, and we do.  Here are some important steps that have been taken already:

  • The City has activated its Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates the activities of executive departments to ensure the strongest, quickest possible response
  • King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a State of Emergency,enabling “extraordinary measures” to fight the outbreak, including waiving some procurement protocols, and authorizing overtime for King County employees, among other powers
  • In addition to City and County government encouraging work from home arrangements, many of our largest employers are doing the same
  • The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is translating coronavirus information into multiple languages. The public can find that information on seattle.gov. 
  • The County has started to set up isolation/quarantine sites in multiple areas throughout the County, using portable trailers. The Executive has also indicated King County is in the process of purchasing a hotel to use as a quarantine site
  • The City is increasing shelter resources during this public health emergency, which will take 2-3 weeks to make operational and will add capacity for up to 100 individuals. The locations are: Lake Union Tiny House Village: Expansion of the current tiny home village by up to 20 units, New Cherry Hill Church Tiny House Village: The City expects capacity to be 30 units, Former Treatment Facility: Former Evergreen Treatment Facility in the Bitter Lake neighborhood with capacity for up to 50 people
  • The City’s Navigation Team is distributing hygiene kits and sharing information about COVID-19 with people who are living unsheltered
  • The Seattle Times has lowered/deactivated their “pay wall” to ensure that all of our neighbors have access to the latest information and updates
  • Washington state’s insurance commissioner issued an emergency order directing all health insurance carriers, through May 4, to provide health care provider visits and novel coronavirus testing without co-payments and deductible payments to enrollees who meet criteria for testing
  • UW announced they now have permission and ability to test for coronavirus, and the region could potentially test up to 1,000 samples each day, a significant expansion in our testing capacity
  • Public health officials through Public Health Seattle & King County have been consistent on keeping the public up to date and sharing information on how we can remain healthy, and are giving daily media updates to the public (see their website for a helpful fact sheet and answers to frequently asked questions).

East Marginal Project Letter of Support for Grant Funding

Last year the Council voted to approve funding to begin work on the East Marginal Way project.

The project is a high priority for bike connections between West Seattle and Downtown, to fully separate bicycles from motor vehicle traffic in the SODO industrial area.

East Marginal Way is a major freight corridor that provides access to the Port of Seattle terminals, rail yards, industrial businesses and the regional highway system, and between local Manufacturing and Industrial Councils (MIC’s). It is also a designated Heavy Haul Route, critical last-mile connector and vital route for over-sized trucks or those carrying flammable cargo.

SDOT has applied for a $13 million federal grant to help fully fund this project. The Council signed a letter in support of the grant.

The project website shows 60% design; you can also take a survey or sign up for the project e-mail list at the website.

Duwamish Longhouse Bus Access Walk

My staff participated in a walk to the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center from a bus stop at Delridge Way SW and SW Andover Street. This bus stop is over a mile away from the Longhouse, and it’s the walk the receptionist at the longhouse on West Marginal Way has to take each day, with the absence of bus service on West Marginal.

The walk was organized by the Duwamish tribe to raise awareness; other participants included the D1 network, SDOT, and transportation and community advocates.

The walk includes areas without lighting or sidewalks, and high vehicle speeds, which makes access difficult, and raises concerns for safety. Below are images from the walk.

February Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office. My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering. The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in February, what I refer to above as “case management services.” The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in February related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

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