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.
King County has applied to loosen its Phase 1 COVID-19 restrictions, a plan from Executive Dow Constantine for a limited expansion of allowed activities including limited sit-down dining at restaurants, in-store retail, and outdoor gatherings of “5 or fewer people.”
The bid comes amid a change in state guidelines for reopening counties requiring fewer than 10 new positive cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. CHS reported last week on Gov. Jay Inslee’s extension of Washington’s “stay home” order with the new framework that allows a higher infection rate and will put the phased transitions more firmly into the hands of the remaining individual counties still in the first phase of recovery.
If approved, the King County plan would:
- allow all outdoor recreation permitted in Phase 2 in Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start plan
- expand opening indoor fitness studios for one-on-one activities
- allow restaurants to begin opening indoor seating at 25% of normal capacity
- allow hair stylists and other personal services at 25% capacity
Originally planned to be limited to add only outside dining to the takeout and delivery options they have been offering, restaurants can now consider adding limited indoor seating. More guidance is coming for food and drink businesses. Public Health will release guidance by Friday, June 5 to “advise how additional outdoor seating may be offered in the lowest risk manner.”
“Restaurants will need to go through the normal process within their city to seek approval to expand outdoor seating,” the county proposal reads.
Meanwhile, if you are excited about expanded options for outdoor recreation, here is the state’s expanded guidance for Phase 2 (PDF) which covers many of the details. Phase 2, by the way, has further opened camping in many of the state’s counties.
In addition to infection rate, state officials will look at measurements of King County’s testing capacity and hospital readiness. As of the county’s last update on May 30th, the measures in each category are listed as “meeting target” except for the testing measures. Washington officials have said they will consider county applications for phase advancement with targets and measurements “taken as a whole.” Inslee has also said counties would be free to add restrictions to state requirements.
Trends show the nature of infections may be changing. A new analysis of Washington infection statistics, meanwhile, shows that half of new COVID-19 infections are in people younger than 40 years old. Meanwhile, health officials have become more aggressive in encouraging more people to get tested. With resources in place, the parameters of who should be screened now include anybody with symptoms or “close contact”
“Our plan to safely reopen our region’s economy is based on the latest data, recommendations by Public Health experts, and insight from communities and businesses,” Constantine said about his county’s application for the modified Phase 1 status. “We are ready to take the next careful step toward an equitable recovery that benefits everyone who calls King County home.”
Full details on the “Phase 1.5” proposal is here.
More updates below
- Protests and the virus: The local chapter of Black Lives Matter says it has asked its communities to stay out of this week’s protests out of concerns for spreading the virus. State health officials said earlier this week the group may be right to be concerned but also said that First Amendment rights should come first and that they are ready to measure the impact of the demonstrations on the outbreak. Officials said there are no signs, yet, that the protests have caused any increase in positive cases and added that outdoor activities are, generally, less risky — but that the large crowds could, indeed, help spread infections. John Wiesman, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Health, encouraged people to consider how they can speak up — without hitting the streets. “In these times there are multiple ways to do that In some ways that are less risky than others, Wiesman said. Wednesday, Inslee took an unusual position for a governor as he encourage protesters to cover their faces with masks. “I just really hope people will continue to do that,” Inslee said of scenes showing crowds of protesters wearing face coverings.
- Weekend jump: Given those concerns about the protests, CHS had to do a double take when we saw the case total for Saturday, May 30th — a whopping 105 new cases. Turns out, there is an explanation for the largest case count since May 5th:
Eighty-four people are currently staying in King County isolation and quarantine facilities. This number includes crew members admitted on Sunday from an American Seafoods’ fishing boat that returned to its home port in Seattle with a number of cases of COVID-19.
Officials say they believe the ship’s outbreak was safely contained and contacts were successfully traced.
- Latest totals: Even with the trawler blip, King County’s infection rate is still slowly falling. New cases have settled into a long pattern, though, in the high 30s to low 50s per day. That trend matches most of the state and officials have said there may need to be new restrictions and initiatives to more fully stamp out the outbreak. King County cases have now reached 8,284 with 562 reported deaths. On Capitol HIll and in the Central District, 226 have become ill and 6 have died, around 2.73% of the county’s totals for cases but only 1.1% of the county’s deaths. King County’s daily updates are posted here.
At the state level, cases have also stayed at a stubborn low rate as testing has ramped up and hospitalization remains at low levels.
- State eviction moratorium extended: Gov. Inslee has extended the state’s protections for residential and commercial tenants into August. What happens to eventually transition out of the moratorium? That’s not known. The governor’s announcement is here:
Gov. Jay Inslee extended protections for renters today as COVID-19 continues to impact the finances of Washingtonians statewide.
The governor first proclaimed a moratorium on evictions in mid-March, then extended and expanded the moratorium in mid-April.
Proclamation 20-19.2 extends the prior eviction moratorium for 60 days (through August 1), and makes modifications to the prior moratorium. The modifications include, but are not limited to:
Prohibiting retaliation against any tenant who invokes rights or protections under the proclamation;
Permitting eviction based on property damage, except for damage that is not urgent in nature, including conditions that were known or knowable to the landlord prior to the COVID-19 crisis;
Establishing a defense to any lawsuit for tenants if a landlord fails to offer a reasonable repayment plan;
Establishing a minimum of a 14-day length of stay at a hotel, motel or at other non-traditional dwelling situations in order to trigger the application of this proclamation to those dwelling situations; and
Allowing owners to evict tenants if the owner plans to occupy or sell the property, after providing at least 60 days’ notice; and
Exempting commercial property rent increases that were executed in a rental agreement prior to the date the state of emergency was declared, on February 29.
- Gig worker sick leave: The Seattle City Council voted Monday to extend sick leave protections to gig workers — including the true heroes of the COVID-19 crisis: food delivery workers.
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