King County to require masks at large outdoor events — starting Tuesday

It will come too late for Labor Day’s roster of big in-person events including Saturday and Sunday’s PrideFest Capitol Hill on Broadway, but King County is responding to a continued surge in COVID-19 cases with new mask requirements.

Beginning Tuesday, masks will also be required at large events with more than 500 people in attendance like Mariners, Sounders, and Seahawks games:

King County, like much of the nation, is in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. With high rates of disease transmission, and our health care system straining to keep up, it is time to take additional steps to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

Therefore, Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin is issuing a Local Health Officer Order updating its mask Order. Beginning Tuesday, September 7: Continue reading

Seattle Rescue Plan’s $7.5M ‘direct investment’ in neighborhood business groups will benefit Broadway BIA, Central Area Collaborative

Organizations representing business communities across Seattle including Capitol Hill and the Central District will share a more than $7 million injection of “direct investment” to help neighborhood economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office has announced details of the neighborhood-focused grants that are part of the $128.4M Seattle Rescue Plan for COVID-19 recovery approved by the Seattle City Council in May.

Under the program, more than two dozen neighborhood business district organizations will receive up to $225,000 in funding “to help stabilize small businesses and address community needs.” Organizations receiving the funding include the Broadway Business Improvement Area that administrates funding for clean-up and safety in the Broadway corridor, the GSBA, “Washington’s LGBTQ chamber of commerce,” and the Central Area Collaborative launched in 2015 to support businesses in the Central District. Continue reading

Offensive plaque removed from Volunteer Park — Meanwhile, conservatory and water tower set to reopen after COVID closures

Thanks to a CHS reader for this picture of the plaque-less stone

An offensive — and inaccurate —  plaque installed in Volunteer Park in the 1950s that came under new scrutiny amid increased anti-Asian hate during the pandemic has been quietly removed. Meanwhile, two much-loved features of the popular North Capitol Hill park are reopening, the Seattle Parks Department says.

A spokesperson Tuesday confirmed that last week’s removal of the plaque near the Seattle Asian Art Museum along the traffic circle surrounding the park’s iconic water tower was performed by the city and not vandalism. Many readers sent CHS pictures and notes last week of the empty large stone left behind where the plaque was once affixed but it wasn’t clear who had removed the bronze plate. Last year, vandals finally put to rest years of controversy after they toppled and permanently destroyed a Confederate monument in neighboring Lakeview Cemetery.

The Volunteer Park plaque, instead, was removed by Seattle Parks in consultation with community groups, the Seattle Parks spokesperson said. Continue reading

With worries about mask-less lunches as hole in reopening plan, some Seattle schools ordering tents for outdoor cafeterias

(Image: CDC)

Seattle Public Schools is preparing to welcome thousands of students back to its campuses next week even as the delta variant drives some of the highest rates of spread yet during the pandemic and Washington has joined states across the country in restoring its indoor masking requirements. With help from federal guidelines and the experiences and data from schools around the world, officials say they can provide a safe environment for kids when the new school year begins next week — even as access to a COVID-19 vaccine could still be weeks or months away. Some parents ready to sent their children back for in-person learning are calling on the district to address a hole in the plans — lunch time.

“We, the undersigned parents, caregivers, and community of Seattle Public School students, teachers, and families are writing to express our deep concern that fully outdoor lunches— a key, highly impactful COVID mitigation strategy– is not being supported across all SPS schools and is instead being decided at an individual school-by-school level,” reads a petition calling for the district to come up with a more equitable plan for handling lunch time unmasking.

“Having this important safety strategy handled at a school level risks creating significant health and education equity gaps as less-resourced schools may risk more frequent outbreaks and transmission due to a lack of space, resources (such as volunteer time and PTA funding), and advocacy tools to make fully outdoor lunches possible,” it reads.

After months of online-only instruction before resuming in-person instruction on a limited basis to end last school year, SPS plans to begin this fall with five full days of in-person instruction at all of its more than 100 schools. But the infection rate — and the worries — are climbing higher this fall than they were late last spring.

Principals have contacted SPS’s director of culinary services “requesting tents so they can provide outdoor dining,” a Seattle Public Schools spokesperson tells CHS, confirming administration at some of its 113 campuses are making preparations for outdoor lunches with 25 schools having requested tents as of Monday. Continue reading

Washington is masked again as governor announces all of state’s teachers must be vaccinated

For all the things Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington got right in the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, it took leaders in Olympia until June 2020 to put mask requirements into place. This summer, just over a month into the state’s reopening, mask mandates are back as the spread of the virus has again accelerated.

Gov. Inslee announced the return of required masking for everyone Wednesday along with new vaccination requirements for teachers across the state as the new school year is about to begin.

Health officials across King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan, and Grays Harbor counties had already issued new recommendations calling for everyone to continue to wear facial coverings “when in indoor public settings where vaccination status is unknown.” Continue reading

From cops to the mayor’s office, City of Seattle joins state in requiring COVID-19 vaccination for employees — UPDATE

(Image: City of Seattle)

Employees of the City of Seattle must join state employees, and employees at private health care and long-term care facilities and get vaccinated against COVID-19. Mayor Jenny Durkan joined Gov. Jay Inslee, and County Executive Dow Constantine to announce the new vaccination requirements Monday.

City and state government employees and the workers under the new requirements have until October 18th to be fully vaccinated.

The mandates join renewed masking requirements as areas across the state including populous King County return to levels of “substantial transmission” of the virus and more virulent variants.

In Seattle, the directive applies to city workers “in executive departments, regardless of whether or not they are reporting to the office, unless they have a sincerely held religious or medical exemption.” Continue reading

King County’s COVID rate climbs back to ‘substantial transmission’ level — more than 80% of cases unvaccinated

King County’s “community transmission level” has returned to concerning levels (Source: kingcounty.gov)

(Image: The Roanoke)

Driven by the increasing spread of cases among its thousands of unvaccinated residents, King County’s key metric in tracking the battle against COVID-19 has climbed back into terrible territory: “substantial transmission.”

The county’s current rate of 77.7 positive cases per 100,000 represents a sad new milestone in the second summer of pandemic as the spread of the virus is now at levels not seen since early spring and nearly twice the totals seen at the height of last summer’s outbreaks.

But things have changed. In King County as in the increasing case totals across the country, experts say this awful upward curve of the pandemic is doing nearly all of its damage among the unvaccinated.

King County officials say in July’s totals, 81% of cases and 89% of COVID-related hospitalizations were among the not fully vaccinated. Those totals line up with numbers across the state where officials say around 94% of the people hospitalized with COVID were not vaccinated.

Among COVID-related deaths in King County, 91% of the patients were not fully vaccinated. Continue reading

As officials issue new guidance on masks, Capitol Hill bar The Doctor’s Office joins spots requiring proof of vaccination — UPDATE: Cuff, Queer Bar, The Woods, too

(Image: The Doctor’s Office)

Heading out on Capitol Hill? Bring your mask. It is becoming increasingly likely you’ll need to wear it to enter your favorite cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops.

This week, local health officials issued new recommendations calling for everyone to continue to wear facial coverings “when in indoor public settings where vaccination status is unknown.”

The health officers of King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan, and Grays Harbor counties have joined together to pass on their best public health advice to protect you, your family, and our communities. We recommend all residents wear facial coverings when in indoor public settings where the vaccination status of those around you is unknown. This step will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public, including customers and workers, help stem the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in many parts of the state, and decrease the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Vaccinations are our best defense against COVID-19 and are safe, effective, and readily available for everyone age 12 and over. Please get yours immediately if you are not already vaccinated.

Private businesses have the discretion to request mask compliance anyway but the new recommendations make it all the more likely more will again require coverings for staff and customers. Continue reading

With planned return to in-person learning, Seattle Public Schools adds ‘Virtual Option Pilot Program’

(Image: Seattle Public Schools)

Seattle Public Schools will keep the online instruction muscle it struggled to build during COVID-19 restrictions with a Virtual Learning Option pilot program for the 2021-2022 school year.

The district announced details and leaders for the pilot program earlier this month in preparation for the start of the new school year in September:

While we are taking all the necessary steps to ensure in-person learning is safe and welcoming for all students, we will also a pilot virtual option for a small population of K-12 students. A virtual option for preschool students will not be offered. Starting with a small virtual option pilot will best promote the district’s goals for racial equity and will provide important data and feedback should the district decide to develop larger scale virtual learning options in the future.

Starting this fall, SPS says there will be “a limited number of students in grades K-12” who can enroll in the virtual learning pilot. Continue reading

City Hall’s ‘Outdoor Cafes, Displays, and Vending in Public Space’ survey seeks feedback on dining tents and sidewalk patios

Lost Lake on 10th Ave

Capitol Hill’s proliferation of street dining tents and sidewalk patios will be allowed to stay into 2022 — and, possibly, beyond. The city is looking for feedback on how to shape its Safe Start permits program for the future.

Have you enjoyed a meal, drink, or treat on an outdoor patio at your favorite restaurant or café this past year?
Chances are, if the outdoor seating was on the sidewalk or street, the coffee shop, brewery, restaurant, or ice cream shop may have been one of the 200+ businesses participating in our safe start program this last year.

Take our Outdoor Cafes, Displays, and Vending in Public Space Survey to share your thoughts on how we can improve these permit programs for the future.

Whether you’re a business owner who applied for a permit, employee who served customers outside, patron who frequented your local cafes, or anyone else who has thoughts on how we can improve these permits, we want to hear from you! (end call out box)

CHS reported here on the success of the program and the proliferation of patio spaces across Capitol Hill. There are also challenges including keeping areas accessible for everyone and street safety. Continue reading