How is COVID-19 spreading in Seattle? Households, workplaces, and gatherings most likely for exposure

Customers stand in a socially distanced line wrapping around the block Thursday to pick up their vegan Thanksgiving orders from 12th Ave’s Plum (Image: CHS)

With officials fearing new momentum in the fall wave of COVID-19 from Thanksgiving gatherings, Public Health has provided the clearest information yet in this “third phase” of the pandemic about how King County and Seattle residents are becoming sick. The answers won’t allay Thanksgiving and holiday fears — and they won’t be easy to address under current restrictrictions and mandates.

In a new report released before the holiday weekend, county health officials said contact tracing shows that most people becoming infected by the virus here since late September are being exposed within their own household. How it is being introduced into the household is a larger, more complicated answer. Officials Wednesday said they don’t have a clear view of how “household” exposures are starting because people are reporting a wide range of contact environments, and often report multiple possible exposures. Contact tracing here has also been complicated by those becoming ill either intentionally or unintentionally providing incomplete tracing information. Continue reading

With applications due for $4M next round, 10 Capitol Hill and Central District $10K Seattle small business relief fund grantees weigh in

If you own one of the 9,000 Seattle businesses that applied for a $10,000 city grant early on in the pandemic but weren’t chosen during the first three rounds, there may be hope once again.

Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund, rolled out in March, has now been revitalized as part of the City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan joint $5.5 million COVID-19 small business relief package passed in August. Of the businesses selected in this upcoming round, at least two thirds must have five employees or less and identify as “high risk of displacement or highly disadvantaged.”

So far, 469 businesses have received grants through this fund and over 60 of them are in District 3 neighborhoods including Capitol Hill and the Central District. The application period for this next round closes on Monday. You can learn more here.

For some Capitol Hill and Central District businesses, the grant was a necessary part of staying afloat during a time when federal and other sources of funding weren’t panning out. For others, it’s just one part of a larger effort to withstand the ongoing pandemic, especially in light of recently  tightened COVID restrictions.

  • SugarPill: The Pine and Broadway apothecary was one of the first businesses to receive a city grant. Owner Karyn Schwartz says it was the first type of governmental funding SugarPill received, coming through at a much needed time when invoices from the previous holiday season were piling up along with rent and payroll. “Without that grant, SugarPill would quite possibly have not survived,” she said. “It was a godsend in the early days of the pandemic.” Situated just down the block from 11th and Pine, she says the grant carried SugarPill through six straight weeks of near total closure as limited capacity shopping and curbside pickup were halted during this summer’s Capitol Hill protest zone. “It provided me, most importantly, with a little extra time to think about my next move, and to do the horrific work of applying for every other kind of assistance with a slightly less paralyzing sense of panic,” Schwartz said. Continue reading

Seattle’s Equitable Development fund awards COVID-19 grants

The City of Seattle has announced $1.77 million in additional grants from its Equitable Development Initiative Fund for “community organizations for projects and programs that respond to displacement pressures.” The new awards are earmarked for “groups that are supporting communities of color and small businesses responding to the devastating economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic,” the city says.

The money will be spread across 36 different organizations. The full list is below.

The fund began its awards in 2018. The COVID-19 funding joins what the city says is about $6 million in boosts that will put three Central District-area properties into community ownership awarded as part of the EDIF’s annual process. Continue reading

City’s Shop Your Block map joins Shop the Hill effort in helping to get the word out about neighborhood small businesses

The City of Seattle has rolled out a new map to help you connect with Capitol Hill retailers. Meanwhile, you’ll see new Shop the Hill posters around the neighborhood.

Shop the Hill, the long running effort from CHS, is partnering again with the Capitol Hill Business Alliance for the free service to help promote local retailers and small businesses and share updates on promotions, deals, and holiday offerings. Participating merchants and venues are complying with COVID-19 safety measures and many offer online ordering and curb pick-up. Check it out at capitolhillseattle.com/shopthehill/

City Hall is also hoping to help boost local shopping with its new Shop Your Block map effort:

The map allows users to find small retailers near them to support this holiday season! You can filter by business name, neighborhood, and by key words like ‘toys’ or ‘pet store. The map will also display operation days and hours per business, identify if a business is open for in person shopping, online shopping, curbside pickup, or appointment only. Businesses are able to display if they are BIPOC, Woman, LGBTQ+ or Veteran owned. Business owners can add themselves to the map by completing a short questionnaire here.

CHS reported here on the new statewide COVID-19 rules that have added new restrictions and reduced capacities for businesses to help slow the spread of the virus as numbers continue to surge. For Capitol Hill small businesses, bars seem to be the most solidly impacted by the changes that include a ban on indoor service with many venues opting to close until conditions improve and the restrictions can be lifted. Retailers, meanwhile, are limited to 25% occupancy. The state says the current restrictions will be in place through at least December 14th.


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‘Spiritual practice’ — 12th Ave yoga studio says it will continue in-person classes despite COVID-19 restrictions — UPDATE

(Image: Live Love Flow)

A 12th Ave yoga studio says it is exempt from the state’s new COVID-19 restrictions and will continue in-person “spiritual and mindful” classes.

Live Love Flow informed customers about the plans Monday night one day after Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new lockdown on businesses and social gatherings to help slow a dangerous third wave of rapid spread of the virus. Live Love Flow members notified CHS about the update.

“In response to Gov. Inslee’s mandate, we are announcing that we are continuing to run yoga classes as scheduled In-Studio and Online,” the studio’s message said. “Yoga is considered a spiritual and mindful practice.”

The new restrictions seem to disagree. Continue reading

250 days after first restrictions, Washington starts new COVID-19 lockdown — UPDATE

(Image: CHS)

Washington’s third phase (Source: coronavirus.wa.gov)

With the virus spreading faster than ever in Seattle, King County, the state, and the nation, Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a new round of severe restrictions on businesses and social gathering in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 before the state’s hospital and health system is overwhelmed.

State and local officials have said the fall surge here is being fueled by small gatherings with friends and family when masks come off and the virus is given more time and opportunity to spread. Experts warn that any prolonged exposure — especially indoors and even when masked — can be dangerous.

Sunday, Inslee said he wanted it to be clear that the new restrictions were not a matter of punishing restaurants and other businesses for the outbreak. “This is not a matter of trying to assign blame,” Inslee said. But health officials added that restaurants have been identified as the most common cause of outbreaks, typically involving staff becoming ill on the job.

Calling the day the state’s “most dangerous” in 100 years, Inslee said his goal is to keep the most people alive as possible before a vaccine arrives.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan spoke during the morning’s session but did not announce any additional restrictions in her city beyond those being rolled out across the state. While facilities like pools will close, Seattle parks and playgrounds should remain open.

UPDATE: In a live interview with Converge Media and CHS on Monday, the mayor said the information the city has from health officials shows what has been “a handful of employer outbreaks” but that bars and restaurants have been the most common source in those business-related situations. The mayor encouraged people to visit seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19 for a list of resources and local programs they can apply to immediately for assistance during the lockdown and crisis.

UPDATE 11/18/2020: Industry advocates are pointing out that restaurants and bars are being unfairly singled out. According to the state’s latest sector report (PDF), Washington’s leading employment categories by total case count are Health Care and Social Assistance, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, Retail Trade, Manufacturing, and then Accommodation and Food Services.

The new limitations included a ban on indoor dining and 25% capacity restrictions on the number of customers allowed inside grocery stores and other retail venues. The new lockdown will include closures of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities including gyms, movie theaters, museums, zoos, and aquariums. Real estate open houses are again prohibited. And religious services will again be limited with a 25% capacity or 200-person restriction — whichever is fewer.

Youth sports practices, meanwhile, will be allowed to continue and services including hair salons and barbershops can continue to operate. Childcare facilities and private schools providing in-person instruction to young children can also continue. Seattle Public Schools is yet to restore any wide scale in-person learning.

Indoor social gathering is prohibited while outdoor should be limited to no more than five people from outside the household.

The new restrictions will go into effect starting Tuesday morning with restaurants and bars getting an extra day to lock things down before a Wednesday morning start of the new limits.

They are planned to be in place for at least four weeks — and possibly longer — until cases subside. Continue reading

Despite continued rise in cases, Washington not yet rolling back reopening — UPDATE: Inslee address Thursday night

UPDATE 11/12/2020 7:00 PM: In a seven minute address on the “third wave” of pandemic in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee joined with wife Trudi Inslee in asking the state’s citizens not to gather with family and friends at Thanksgiving celebrations. Video of the full address is above. Inslee said announcements on “further measures” will be made in coming days. Thursday, King County reported 622 new positive COVID-19 cases — 47% above the seven-day average — along with what appears to be a growing count of new hospitalizations and deaths. In its latest report, the county marked 19 new hospitalizations — it has been averaging 12 this week. Its average of one death a day will also rise. In its most recent report posted Thursday, the county recorded 10 deaths.

ORIGINAL REPORT: The West Coast is rolling back its reopening but Washington, so far, remains focused on Maskgiving.

“The safest Thanksgiving is the Thanksgiving celebrated within your immediate household,” Lacy Fehrenbach, the state’s Deputy Secretary of Health for COVID-19 Response said Tuesday in a briefing with officials seen as one final attempts at buying time before Washington joins Oregon and California in restoring limits on businesses including bars and restaurants and restricting social gathering.

CHS reported here on worries about a continued rise in the spread of the virus and worries that the Thanksgiving holiday would power further increases as people gathered with groups of friends and loved ones. Continue reading

‘We didn’t want to open in a pandemic’ — Barca plays it cool in exit from 20 years of Capitol Hill nightlife

(Image: Barca)

The COVID-19 crisi has claimed Capitol Hill’s Barca, a bar that managed to survive multiple editions of Pike/Pine’s rapid mutations. That stubborn sense of righteousness did the bar in, longtime manager Dan Carlisle tells CHS.

“We didn’t want to open in a pandemic,” Carlisle said.

With state and local officials warning that the spread of the virus has again reached levels that will soon overwhelm the area’s health systems,  and people being asked to mark the Thanksgiving holiday alone, does it make sense to keep Capitol Hill’s bars and restaurants open?

Carlisle said the management at the 11th Ave bar considered “50 different ways” to reopen but none made financial or moral sense. Continue reading

Happy Maskgiving — Officials worried about holiday surge as gatherings fuel continued spread of COVID-19

We have a statewide mask mandate and officials who have taken the risk seriously, implementing prudent restrictions on businesses and gatherings. And, yet, the virus continues to spread in Seattle.

COVID-19 is living up to the worst concerns about its ability to move thoroughly and quickly as a fall surge in cases continues in the city and King County while cases in the nation and around the world also hit all-time highs.

“If this outbreak is allowed to continue to grow, we will see impacts on our healthcare system that are intolerable,” Dr. Jeffrey Duchin of Seattle and King County Public Health said Friday.

In King County, the key measure of total cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks hit nearly 150 positives a day — the highest point recorded for the metric and about three times the rate measured at its September recent low. The average will be rising — King County recorded a daily positive case total above 500 in its most recent update. The rate of hospitalization, meanwhile, has fortunately remained steady. But even without a major increase in that rate, the illness is capable of overwhelming the local health care system. Continue reading

UW model shows how COVID-19 spreads through neighborhoods like Capitol Hill


A new study from a research team led by UC Irvine and the University of Washington shows how demographics and density could contribute to speed the spread of an outbreak through neighborhoods like Capitol Hill.

The “spatial heterogeneity” model published last month “factors in network exposure — whom one interacts with — and demographics to simulate at a more detailed level both where and how quickly the coronavirus could spread through Seattle and 18 other major cities,” UW announced this week.

“The most basic takeaway from this research is risk,” co-author Zack Almquist, assistant professor of sociology at the UW, said. “People are at risk longer than they think, the virus will last longer than expected, and the point at which you think you don’t need to be vigilant means that it just hasn’t happened to you yet.” Continue reading