Updates on Coronavirus
Friends and Neighbors,
With our Governor’s order this week to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” our response to the coronavirus pandemic enters a new hunkering-down phase. These are trying times, but we are going to get through this together. I hear from many people who are worried about how this public health and economic emergency is impacting their ability to work, eat, play, go to school, earn a living, and many other aspects of daily life that are now disrupted. With this newsletter, my team is providing to you the most up-to-date resources from the Governor, King County public health officials, and the Mayor. I also continue to update my online blog regularly as news breaks
You can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage, as well as the Mayor’s blog for additional updates. Additionally, our Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs has been translating and sharing information on COVID-19 in several languages. For links to OIRA’s fact sheets and other translated materials, go to their blog: https://welcoming.seattle.gov/covid-19/
And for the latest from Public Health Seattle-King County you can visit their website to track our region’s response to the virus.
Announcements from Governor Inslee
Governor Inslee’s recent order to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” will last for two weeks but may be extended. The order requires every Washingtonian to stay home unless pursuing an essential activity. It would also ban all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes, and close all businesses except essential businesses. “The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save,” Governor Inslee said. According to his press release, “the proclamation states it’s still safe for people to go outside as long as they remain at least six feet from each other. Grocery stores, doctor’s offices and other essential businesses will remain open. People can still participate in activities such as bike rides, gardening, and dog walking — as long as they follow social distancing rules.” To read the Governor’s order (“Proclamation 20-25”), CLICK HERE and for the list of exemptions, CLICK HERE. For good news about expanded unemployment benefits, see below. For more info from our State government, please visit the Governor’s blog.
The City of Seattle has been working to provide more resources for people living unsheltered leading up to and during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The City’s Human Services Department (HSD) has been in close partnership with the King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), Public Health Seattle King County (PHSKC), and City departments to stand up critical resources and services for people experiencing homelessness. The City, in partnership with the County, is expanding shelter capacity and working to deploy portable toilets, hand-washing stations, and hygiene stations. They are utilizing our hard-working interdepartmental Navigation Team to connect individuals who are at risk for COVID-19 with expanded shelter resources, referrals to testing and medical treatment, and hygiene services. For more information about ways the City is working to help our homeless neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Homelessness Response Blog.
Since the beginning of March and in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Navigation Team has focused on conducting outreach and distributing hygiene kits while temporarily suspending removal of most unauthorized encampments.
No such removals will occur during this public health emergency unless needed for an extreme circumstance that presents a significant barrier to accessibility of city streets and sidewalks, and is an extraordinary public safety hazard that puts people at risks. Individuals in all these cases will be offered shelter.
City and Northlake Tiny House Village Residents Reach Agreement
After weeks of negotiations, the City of Seattle announced it has reached an agreement with Nickelsville residents of the Northlake Tiny House Village that will allow residents to stay in place through June 1 under conditions that will allow site access for the City government’s public health, safety, and service providers.
“I’m relieved that—during this extraordinary public health crisis—our Mayor is able to provide more time for those experiencing homelessness at the Northlake ‘tiny home village,’ so they may remain for additional months on the property they have called home during the past two years,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who represents District 4. “I look forward to the folks there – many of whom I have met personally – staying safe and eventually transitioning to permanent housing, and I commend their Wallingford neighbors for being so welcoming and compassionate.”
This underscores the need to jumpstart the newly created Regional Homelessness Authority so we can implement effective regional solutions to the regional challenge of homelessness and people are no longer living outside.
King County Metro and Sound Transit Fares and Ride Reductions
Paying fares for both King County Metro buses and Sound Transit light rail is optional during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, due to reduced ridership during the “Stay Home” order, King County Metro is making significant changes to its service and asking people to board buses by the rear door. These measures will allow people to stay appropriately distanced from each other and from drivers.
The other major change to bus service is new trip reductions effective Monday, March 23, 2020. In our District 4, routes temporarily out of service are Route 78 (Children’s Hospital to UW/Husky Stadium Link Station) and Route 541 (Sound Transit from Overlake to the UW). Alternatives for the 78 are Routes 31/32, 65/67, and 75. An alternative for the 541 is Route 542.
The best way to assess your bus schedule is to text your stop ID to 62550, and you will receive a return message with the next departure times at that stop. Stop ID numbers are on the bus stop sign, and on the “One Bus Away” app. Detailed instructions and much more helpful info is available at Metro’s website HERE.
Despites these temporary reductions in bus service during this crisis, I am relieved King County Metro will maintain most bus routes throughout Seattle to connect people to places of care and essential businesses (including grocery stores).
For more information on this, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.
West Seattle Bridge Closure
On March 24, the Mayor closed the West Seattle Bridge due to structurally threatening cracks in the concrete beams holding up the heavy bridge. For alternate routes suggested by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), CLICK HERE.
The City Council President Lorena González, Councilmember Lisa Herbold (who represents West Seattle), and I — as the Chair of the City Council Transportation and Utilities Committee — are having the Director of SDOT provide a full report to the City Council this Monday, March 30 at 9:30 a.m. You can listen to the proceedings on the Seattle Channel website or by calling 206-684-8566.
Here is the statement I issued to the media:
“When I learned about this issue today (March 24), I immediately supported the Mayor’s decision to temporarily close the West Seattle Bridge because safety should be our top priority,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee. “As we provide safe travel alternatives for residents, first responders, and public transit, I look forward to hearing not only an analysis from structural engineers but also next steps, including a realistic timeline for solutions from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”
“As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I’d like to schedule a public briefing in the future so we can all hear the latest structural reports on all Seattle bridges and the plans for repairs and upgrades.”
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) does routine inspections, which is how they discovered the current West Seattle Bridge problem. I am carefully monitoring the situation and requesting information on the status of all City-owned bridges. This is another fiscal responsibility issue. It is likely we may need to shift scarce dollars toward critical bridge repairs and we should prioritize funding from the federal government to keep our city’s bridges safe for all modes of transportation. I’m pleased to report that, in District 4, the 15th Ave NE bridge across Ravenna Ravine is already undergoing significant repairs. Information on the “Cowen Park Bridge Seismic Retrofit” and other bridge maintenance projects is available here. Strategic infrastructure projects that increase safety, move freight, and get thousands of people to their jobs will be vital as we eventually lift ourselves out of the public health and economic crisis.
Seattle Transportation Benefit District Renewal
Early this year, the City of Seattle discussed with King County the possibility of replacing Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District (STBD)—which expires at the end of this year—with a county wide program. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the County has decided not to proceed.
With King County deciding not to pursue a regional bus measure for the August ballot due to the coronavirus crisis, I want to assure Seattle that it’s a priority for me as Chair of the City’s Transportation Committee to maintain an extensive transit network relied upon by workers, businesses, seniors, and nearly everyone else throughout Seattle. I will continue to work with the Mayor, my City Council colleagues, King County Metro, and community stakeholders to explore the best future options to renew funding for this important and successful transit program for Seattle. As we confront the challenges of the coronavirus, renewing Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District is an opportunity for everyone to unite in a positive and productive way to invest in what I believe will be a bright future for our city.
The Transit Riders Union and Transportation Choices Coalition advocacy organizations are joining forces to survey everyone who normally rides buses and/or travels on light rail. They “want to hear from transit riders across the state, especially if you can’t work remotely or stay home. What are you seeing on your commute? What do you need from public transit right now? ” To take their survey, CLICK HERE
Additional Child Care
In addition to providing meals throughout the city, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced that several child care sites will be available in their school buildings. Per guidance from the Governor’s Office and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), child care services will be prioritized for SPS children who have first responders in their family. Each licensed provider of child care will be responsible for enrollment, registration, and identifying which of their current families qualify. To review the list of providers, criteria for registration and enrollment, and locations please visit the COVID-19 child care resource webpage. For other COVID-19 announcements from our public schools, CLICK HERE. For additional child care resources, CLICK HERE
COVID-19 Testing for our First Responders
Last Friday, Mayor Durkan announced a new pilot clinic run BY first responders FOR first responders to ensure they receive COVID-19 testing. The City is also allowing neighboring fire department personnel and private ambulance companies who are symptomatic to receive testing as capacity allows. This week I spoke directly to Public Health Director Patty Hayes to confirm that first responders and medical care workers are prioritized for testing.
COVID-19 Related Bias and Harassment
I would like to raise awareness that some immigrant and refugee community leaders and organizations have noticed an alarming increase in bias and harassment against our neighbors during this pandemic. As noted by our Public Health officials, the “2019 novel coronavirus started in Wuhan, China [but] that’s just geography. Having Chinese ancestry — or any other ancestry — does not make a person more vulnerable to illness” or contagious. Please take a moment to look at this guide from King County explaining why viruses don’t discriminate and neither should anyone.
Racism — related to COIVD-19 or for any reason in District 4 or anywhere –is unacceptable. Our city knows better.
This past week, the Governor relaxed rules for individuals who recently lost their job due to coronavirus. Specifically, to collect benefits, those recently unemployed no longer need to be actively looking for work – something much more challenging in the midst of the pandemic. Visit the Washington State’s Employment Security Department to apply for unemployment benefits. Please also check this list of financial resources provided by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. Governor Inslee joined other Governors to send a letter this week asking President Trump to increase “funding and unemployment insurance eligibility to impacted workers who would otherwise be excluded due to the number of hours they have worked or their status as independent contractors.”
Neighborhood Businesses Need Support in D4
There’s a delicious exemption from Governor Inslee’s emergency “Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order”: “To-go and delivery from restaurants will still be allowed.” My Facebook page has featured several of these cherished anchors of our District 4 neighborhoods. And here is another small sampling:
- Xian Noodles on The Ave
- Snowy Village in University Village
- Ba Bar in University Village
- Uncle Lee’s on Sand Point Way
Mayor Durkan getting take-out lunch. Even though it was not in District 4 on that day, we commend her strong support every day for small businesses.
Affordable Broadband Options
While it’s the mission of the Seattle Information Technology Department (IT) to provide technology solutions to make city government run better, it is also providing better information to the public about affordable broadband internet services:
Creating a Portal to Affordability: Seattle IT is reviewing and updating the City of Seattle “Affordability Portal” to reflect updated internet offerings. For example, the Affordability Portal now incorporates new Wave and Comcast offerings and added two options for mobile internet and refurbished computers (Interconnection & PCs for People).
Technology Access: Seattle Information Technology Department (IT) is also working with our community and city government partners to help ensure that residents have better access to technology devices, which are even more necessary to work, learn, and access essential services. Seattle IT is helping promote awareness of organizations like Friendly Earth and InterConnection that help provide devices to residents. Seattle IT partners with these groups to get refurbished laptops to residents via community-based organizations. They are partnering with Seattle Schools (SPS), Seattle Public Library, and Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) to determine short and long terms strategies to help students with access to laptops and connectivity. This group will be meeting weekly to continue to collaborate on meeting student device & connectivity needs
Parking Lot Closures at Parks
This week Mayor Durkan announced that Seattle Parks and Recreation would be closing the parking lots at its most popular parks, including Magnuson Park, Gasworks Park, and Green Lake. This is in an effort to reduce crowding in public places and encourage people to comply with social distancing recommendations. It’s still okay to visit our parks; just play 6 feet away from your neighbors.
Your City Council
Even though City Council is not holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. You can also submit public comment by sending a fax to 206-684-8587, or emailing your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments.
Finally, I’m still holding in-district office hours so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests.
Hunker down, chin up, and soap up your Seattle hands — we’ll get through this together, Emerald City.
With gratitude — and community fortitude,
Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4