Here are the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak and response around the Seattle region, Capitol Hill, and the Central District. See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959.
- How we looking for Phase 2? In a morning session focused on 10 of the state’s smallest counties being cleared to apply for early “Phase 2” reopening, Gov. Jay Inslee provided an update for the rest of us — Washington is on track for moving to the next phase in June. Inslee said Tuesday he is “hopeful we can move forward” on June 1. “I would love to be able to say, ‘here’s the date,'” the governor said but reminded that measurements of new cases and availability of testing and medical resources will be the deciding factors. You can find our overview of Washington’s reopening phases here. Phase 2 will bring loosened restrictions including the reopening of restaurants for sit-down service at 50% capacity, the return of hair and beauty services, and “limited” non-essential travel.
- Statewide masks? Inslee said Tuesday that he likely won’t be asking for Washington-wide face mask requirements. Starting Monday, Seattle and King County residents are now required to wear face coverings inside businesses and where distancing can’t be maintained. But Inslee did say the state is planning to ask businesses to encourage their patrons to wear the coverings. As the state reopens, Inslee said, things like wearing masks and making “good individual decisions” will need to help replace the loosened restrictions.
- Seattle masks! The city launched a new effort Tuesday to help businesses and organizations in need to get new masks “from Seattle-region midsize manufacturers and businesses that have pivoted to creating face coverings and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The new Seattle Protects “marketplace” is now up and running “to connect local companies, organizations, and community members interested in producing, requesting, and donating cloth face coverings for Seattleites during COVID-19 pandemic.”
- Also reopening: Your mouth: Dentists are back in business as “all medical services” in Washington are now reopened:
Aside from being determined by the COVID-19 activity in different regions of the state, the reopening of health care services are based on three standards of care. Readiness will be determined by the availability of PPE, hospital capacity and more. Under this plan, each health care or dental provider must meet certain criteria to be able to begin performing elective procedures. Each provider evaluates their readiness to begin and must maintain standards to continue to see patients.
- Sound Transit fare restart: June 1st will also bring the return of fares on Sound Transit routes and light rail. A “recovery fare” of $1 for light rail will be available through the Transit GO app and at ticket machines through June. ORCA card carriers will be charged at full. According to C is for Crank, part of the driver behind the return of paid tickets has been damage caused by homeless riders:
According to a press release, “riders taking repetitive trips without apparent destinations” have been “associated in part” with “a dramatic increase in unsanitary conditions, rider complaints and incidents of vandalism after fares were temporarily suspended in March.” In other words: Homeless people riding trains for free have trashed our trains and made other riders uncomfortable.
The economic downturn from the crisis is expected to also do lasting damage to the region’s public transit funding. Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced $166.3 million in federal funding to help with the “Sound Transit COVID-19 Response.”
- Retail pick-up zones: Mayor Jenny Durkan announced new curbside zones will join the existing restaurant pick-up zones in neighborhood streets around the city:
The State of Washington now allows retail stores to re-open for curbside pick-up if all guidance is met. To support these businesses, the City of Seattle is installing temporary 15-minute loading zones to facilitate reliable customer access for retail pick-ups. This builds on the City’s earlier announcement of priority pick-up zones for local restaurants. The 15-minute time limit gives people a chance to quickly and safely pick up purchases, while ensuring frequent parking turnover so the locations remain reliably available for wide use.
- No added school: Despite Seattle Public Schools getting off to a slow start on remote learning, the district announced Tuesday it won’t be tacking on any additional days to the school year:
As shared in yesterday’s family and staff letter, the last day of the 2019-20 school year for SPS students will be June 19. The governor stated that schools must be in session until June 19. The district will also be asking the state for a waiver of instructional hours for two weeks, the time between the state required school closures and March 30, when continuous learning began again for SPS students.
Officials have said they are currently planning for the next school year to start on time in the fall — with kids back on school campuses. UPDATE: The Seattle Times reports SPS will also ramp up its summer school resources after June to “continue offering courses online that serve elementary, middle and high school students.” Registration begins next week.
- Washington Worker Relief Fund: The Seattle City Council passed a resolution Monday requesting the state form a Washington Worker Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to undocumented workers. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to socioeconomic factors and many in the communities serving roles as essential workers in the state’s workforce.
- Jayapal Paycheck Recovery Act: U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) has introduced legislation to create an economic recovery plan for the COVID-19 crisis that is designed to subsidize struggling company payrolls and discourage layoffs. “Mass unemployment is a policy choice, and we must choose differently by passing an urgent proposal that matches the scale of this crisis while delivering certainty and direct relief to workers, businesses of all sizes and the economy,” Jayapal said. “The Paycheck Recovery Act will end mass unemployment, put workers back on their paychecks and health care and keep businesses from closing permanently while ensuring workers aren’t forced to return to work before it is safe to do so.” Under the $146.1 billion proposal, businesses, nonprofits and state and local governments facing COVID-19 related revenue losses above “a 10% gross receipts threshold” would be eligible for grants as well as independent contractors, domestic workers and gig workers. You can read the full proposal here (PDF).
- UPDATE — Latest totals: King County reported six COVID-19 deaths yesterday continuing a pattern of jumps in reported deaths on Mondays even as daily totals have continued to slowly drop. Only 53 new positive cases were reported. Over the weekend, Washington reported its 1,000 COVID-19 death. You can view the latest county totals here and the latest Washington totals here.
- Counting the days: Seattle residents have now been under COVID-19 restrictions for 70 days.
CHS COVID-19 TIMELINE: + Feb. 29 First ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 case in King County + Mar. 11 Washington puts ‘over 250’ restrictions in place + Mar. 11 Schools closed + Mar. 15 Restaurants and bars closed, ‘over 50’ threshold + Mar. 21 Police begin clearing parks + Apr. 2 Washington restrictions extended + Apr. 6 Schools closed for rest of year + Apr. 8 Can’t relax those social restrictions yet but, exhale, Seattle — COVID-19 model says you’ve made it through this outbreak’s peak + Apr. 27 Washington eases restrictions on some outdoor activities but you’ll still need to give six feet on the trail + May 1 Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel