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Justin is publisher of CHS. You can reach him at chs@capitolhillseattle.com or call/txt (206) 399-5959. Follow @jseattle on Twitter or be best pals on Facebook.

As nation marks sad 500,000 milestone, a look at the deadly COVID-19 numbers in Seattle and King County

The New York Times illustrated the nation’s death toll in response to crossing the 500,000 milestone

President Joe Biden has ordered flags to half staff this week as the nation marks 500,000 COVID-19 deaths — a milestone predicted by only the most pessimistic forecasts in the early weeks of the crisis. Meanwhile, Seattle and King County are approaching the one year anniversary of what would quickly grow into a global pandemic — on February 28th, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health made a Friday night announcement about the first “presumptive positive” case of COVID-19 in King County.

Here, the county reports 1,357 people have died including 16 across Capitol Hill and the Central District.

King County’s data and reports on deaths (PDF) illustrate the painful truths of the pandemic: COVID-19 strikes at the weakest corners of society’s fabric.

Across Seattle and King County, more than 90% of those who have died here were age 60 or older. Nine out of ten had “underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, or immunosuppression.” Continue reading

Police respond to armed man reported at 23rd and Yesler Catholic Community Services building — UPDATE

(Image: Alex Garland)

A large police response filled the area around 23rd and Yesler’s Catholic Community Services building Tuesday afternoon after a report of an armed man at the facility filled with dozens of people.

Officers located several employees inside the Randolph Carter Center building and were evacuating them from the area after finding the possible gunman down with a gunshot wound, according to East Precinct radio reports. UPDATE: Police were continuing to search for a possible suspect. It’s not clear at this point if the downed man is a victim or the suspect. UPDATE x2: Police have determined the downed man is the shooter.

UPDATE 2:51 PM: Police say the gunman is dead — shooting himself after trying to shoot a woman at the facility:

A man fatally shot himself after attempting to shoot a woman at a housing services program in the Central District Tuesday afternoon. Around 1:15 PM, the man met with the woman in a courtyard of a building in the 100 block 23rd Ave and made threatening statements to her. He then pulled out a gun and fired at the woman, who managed to get away uninjured. The suspect then fatally shot himself. Police surrounded the building, confirmed the suspect was deceased, and searched floor by floor. They located one person who had sustained minor injuries while fleeing from the sounds of gunfire.

Continue reading

A plan in COVID-19 limbo: Pike/Pine’s big Glossier Seattle showroom

A rendering of Glossier’s steamy pop-up on Broadway in 2019

While we’re uncertain how many neighborhood bars, restaurants, and shops we’ll find permanently closed as the COVID-19 crisis lifts, there are a few things to keep your fingers crossed for and to look forward to on the post-pandemic Capitol Hill — provided there is a post-pandemic Capitol Hill.

One center of this limbo of potential joy are plans for a new 7,000-square-foot Glossier showroom in the core of Pike/Pine on 10th Ave. But the hope hinges on a change of direction and overall recovery for the makeup and skincare company that shuttered its few stores around the globe this summer and furloughed employees to wait out the COVID-19 crisis.

It is possible the project could end up, instead, the center of things that could have been. Continue reading

QFC says will lay off 109 workers in Seattle hazard pay closures including 15th Ave E store

QFC’s decision to close two Capitol Hill stores including its 15th Ave E grocery over Seattle’s COVID-19 hazard pay ordinance will cost 109 workers their jobs, the company revealed in a state filing Friday afternoon.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification announcements are federally required for employers with 100 or more employees “to provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment.”

A QFC spokesperson did not respond to CHS’s inquiry about how many workers of the 109 are currently employed at the 15th Ave E store.

Parent company Kroger also blamed COVID-19 hazard pay requirements for its decision to close a Ralphs and a Food 4 Less in Long Beach, California. Continue reading

Amid outcry over inequity, Hugo House announces resignation of executive director — UPDATE

Swenson (Image: Hugo House)

Calls for change at Hugo House have led to the resignation of executive director Tree Swenson, the organization announced Friday morning:

The Hugo House Board of Directors today announced the resignation of executive director Tree Swenson, effective immediately. Swenson leaves Hugo House in strong financial health after nine years of steady growth under her leadership, including a new home for the organization on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Like most of Capitol Hill, 15th Ave E hit by COVID-19 closures — What happens when QFC leaves?

From the 2017 sale listing for the 15th Ave E QFC property

It’s hard not to be a little concerned when a COVID-19 testing center that opened on the street can’t even stay open during a pandemic, but, believe it or not, 15th Ave E won’t live or die by the exit of QFC from the top of Capitol Hill — even if massive parent grocery company Kroger makes things difficult.

An empty 17,000-square-foot grocery store might add to the pandemic’s plywood, recent closures, and a few businesses in a kind of limbo making it feel like 15th Ave E’s commercial core has met its match but those doing business in the neighborhood are not giving up.

Tuesday, CHS reported that the 15th Ave E grocery store will shutter in April as the company says Seattle’s $4 an hour COVID-19 hazard pay has forced it to cut two underperforming stores in the city. The company says it will meet with the store’s workers to “help them with this transition and will comply with any contractual commitments” and “consider any transfer requests.”

CHS has learned the grocer has two years remaining on its lease and developer and property owner Hunters Capital says it is talking with the company about keeping the store and its 10,000-square-foot surface parking lot a useful, active part of the neighborhood.

“The activation of storefronts is critical – especially at this time when we see many of them darkened,” Hunters representative Jill Cronauer tells CHS.

“QFC holds a lease for another two years and we will be working with them on how we can activate the area until there is a long-term plan in place,” Cronauer said. Continue reading

Seattle firefighter in Sawant email threat case charged with identity theft and ‘cyberstalking’

The most serious crime in the investigation of email threats against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant might not end up being the threats.

Seattle Fire Department firefighter Andrew Finseth has been charged with second degree identity theft — a felony — and two counts of misdemeanor cyberstalking. The King County Prosecutor’s office did not pursue a charge of felony harassment. “This charging decision is based on our independent review of the investigation materials referred to us by Seattle Police investigators,” the office said in a statement to media.

Both a felony harassment charge and a second degree identity theft charge in Washington are considered Class C felonies, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

CHS reported here on Finseth’s arrest after police determined the firefighter had accessed the email account of another Seattle Fire employee to send threats targeting Sawant. Continue reading

Central District murder updates: A candlelight vigil at Urban League Village and Seattle’s second deadly police shooting in a week — UPDATE: Officers ID’d

(Image: Renee Raketty)

With reporting by Renee Raketty

A night for community healing in the Central District after last week’s homicide and deadly police shooting included a candlelight vigil outside the Northwest African American Museum in Jimi Hendrix Park where a crowd gathered to remember the life of 23-year-old Anais Valencia.

But Tuesday night also brought another shock of deadly force by law enforcement in Seattle as police shot and killed a man suffering a crisis and reportedly armed with a knife in an incident on the city’s waterfront.

In the Central District in the hours before the second deadly Seattle Police shooting in the week, thoughts were with Valencia and her family.

“For too long we have accepted violence as normal,” said Rev. Harriet Walden of Mothers for Police Accountability. “I want to send my heartfelt condolences to the family and I hope that this can bring them comfort. … I want to wrap them in love tonight.” Continue reading

Washington makes push for return to in-person learning with expanded COVID-19 testing plan for schools — but no plan, yet, for vaccinating teachers

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing forward with efforts to encourage the state’s public school districts to return to in-person learning.

Tuesday, Inslee announced expanded funding and support for COVID-19 testing, one of the few levers the state can control in urging officials across the state and in its biggest city to resume in-class instruction. 48 new school districts signed up for the voluntary program, the governor said.

The program currently serves 13 districts piloting the COVID-19 testing protocols. That program will now expand across the state. In King County, districts in Renton and Vashon Island will be part of the testing effort. Early results show that cases of transmission in schools have been rare. Continue reading

QFC to shutter 15th Ave E grocery as company axes two Seattle stores over COVID-19 hazard pay — UPDATE

Blaming the city’s newly imposed $4 an hour COVID-19 hazard pay for grocery workers, QFC announced Tuesday it is closing two “underperforming” Seattle stores including its Capitol Hill grocery on 15th Ave E.

“Our business provides affordable groceries, good jobs with growth opportunities to thousands of Seattle residents, and proudly supports thousands of local community organizations,” the statement from the Kroger-owned grocery company announcing the closures reads. “We need a level playing field to deliver on these commitments. Unfortunately, Seattle City Council didn’t consider that grocery stores — even in a pandemic — operate on razor-thin profit margins in a very competitive landscape. When you factor in the increased costs of operating during COVID-19, coupled with consistent financial losses at these two locations, and this new extra pay mandate, it becomes impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”

Kroger’s most recent reports show the company smashing forecasts with a surge in revenue and profits during the pandemic.

The 15th Ave E store will remain open through April 24th, the company said. The 35th Ave NE store in Wedgwood is also on the chopping block. Continue reading