‘Brighter and healthier days are ahead of us,’ Seattle school kids free to choose whether to mask or not starting Monday

The Seattle Public Schools system is encouraging masking to continue but says it will lift its requirements on the first school day following the end of the state’s mandate.

Until March 14, current masking protocols will remain in place. Masks will continue to be required for all students, staff, and visitors on all SPS campuses and school buses through March 13. We are pleased that COVID-19 cases continue to fall in SPS schools and King County. However, there may be times when we will need to bring back effective mitigations if there is an increase in community, classroom, or school-wide transmission. SPS will continue to monitor COVID-19 rates in our schools

Saturday brings the end of Washington’s COVID-19 indoor masking requirements ending a period of around 600 days of mandatory indoor masking in the state. Washington didn’t put statewide mask requirements into place until late June 2020. New federal guidance calls only for indoor mask usage in areas with high COVID-19 activity.

Public Health says the county is classified at a “low COVID-19 community level” under current metrics. Continue reading

Seattle Public Schools won’t join city and state in lifting mask requirements

Kids who have become accustomed to the face coverings probably won’t care but children at Seattle Public Schools will be required to continue wearing masks after the state’s requirements for the face coverings is lifted next week, the district has said in an update to students and families.

“Future decisions on mask use within the district will be made in partnership with public health, and its implementation will be established after consultation and mutually agreed upon guidelines that are reached through bargaining with our labor partners,” the district said in a statement. Continue reading

The great un-masking of Seattle and Washington state has a new date: March 12th, 2022

Capitol Hill mask fashion may never go away

There is a new date for the great un-masking of Washington state. And this time, King County and Seattle are clearly lined up to join after Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week that the state will drop its indoor masking requirements following revised guidelines from the CDC.

Starting March 12th, face masks will no longer be required indoors in Seattle, across King County, and throughout Washington. Here’s Public Health on the new COVID-19 milestone:

Based on our current downward hospitalization and case rates, our review of CDC’s guidance, and today’s state action, King County’s local indoor mask order will end concurrently with the state’s order–after March 11, 2022. In addition, King County will not be extending a local mask order for schools and childcares beyond the state’s order.

“We believe that ending the indoor mask order ten days earlier than the state previously announced will not make a significant difference for our local King County disease trends,” local health officials said in the Public Health announcement. Continue reading

With rising prices and stretched staff, Capitol Hill restaurants request more pandemic financial support

Capitol Hill diners like these customers at Oddfellows are finding higher prices and more tightly stretched staff

Capitol Hill restaurants struggle with COVID-19-related pressures such as staff shortages, low revenue, and an uncertain future.

To mitigate financial stressors, restaurants across the U.S increased pricing. The USDA said says that restaurant food prices increased by 6.0% in the past year.

Qualified restaurants want funds from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund but not all receive financial aid.

“We were not one of the lucky ones and did not receive RRF. We tried. We qualified, and got our paperwork in and should have received it,” Terra Plata owner Tamara Murphy said. “But it was not implemented well, and it helped many who might not have needed it.”

The American Rescue Plan Act established the RRF earlier last year, giving the Small Business Association $28.6 billion to award businesses that need funding equal to pandemic-related revenue loss. Up to $10 million was given per business and those who qualify for the funds can apply.

Murphy said RRF aid was not distributed wisely. Because RRF is based on lost revenue, many restaurants who closed doors received funds, leaving out restaurants that stayed open, she said.

“RRF put a lot of money in some pockets, and it worked out for them, unfortunately, we weren’t one of them,” Murphy said.

RRF funds have helped doors stay open for some restaurants fortunate enough.

For Roberto Salmeron, owner of Tacos Chukis, the narrative follows a restaurant that rebounded from RRF funds. He said although there was a 50% sales drop in 2020, his restaurant was able to rebound in 2021 with help from RRF funds. Continue reading

City Council to vote on Sawant’s bid to extend Seattle’s pandemic eviction moratorium — UPDATE: Rejected

The City Council will decide Tuesday whether to adopt a resolution brought by District 3 representative Kshama Sawant that would legally change the date the city’s prohibition on residential evictions end in Seattle.

UPDATE 4:25 PM: Following council president Debora Juarez’s recitation of two years of passed legislation involving pandemic renter protections, the body rejected the Sawant resolution in a 3-5 vote. Only Teresa Mosqueda and Lisa Herbold joined Sawant in yes votes on the extension. Tammy Morales was not present for the vote.

The rejection followed an attempt at compromise in sorting out an extension on the city’s eviction restrictions as Herbold proposed an amendment that would have extended the restrictions only through April 30th. But that path was rejected with Sawant joining the “no” voters setting up the vote rejecting her proposed longer extension. Before the final vote, Sawant thanked the dozens of speakers who had commented in favor of the resolution and told the council the rejection would be part of a spike in evictions after February 28th.

Original report: The move would reset the clock on Mayor Bruce Harrell’s plan to end the restrictions on February 28th leaving residential tenants behind on their rent around six months more of pandemic protections. Commercial tenants, meanwhile, will only have their own negotiating skills to fall back on.

Sawant’s resolution would modify the civil emergency order that is the legal framework for the restrictions to be in effect “until the termination of the COVID civil emergency” which was proclaimed on March 3, 2020 and “affirmed and modified” previously via resolution.

Sawant is calling on supporters to speak out in support of the extension. “If the City Council does not vote yes on our resolution to extend the COVID-19 pandemic eviction moratorium, it will result in a spate of evictions and homelessness,” she said in an email to supporters. Continue reading

Seattle ready to shed another pandemic safeguard: State COVID-19 indoor mask requirements to end March 21st

March 2022 will bring the end of more pandemic restrictions and requirements. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state will end its mask requirements for indoor spaces including restaurants, grocery stores, and schools beginning March 21st.

“The virus has changed significantly over the past two years, and so has our ability to fight it. While caution is still needed, we are entering a new phase of the pandemic,” Inslee said.

Masking will still be required in spaces like health care facilities and on public transit and school buses. Some private businesses and cities may choose to continue with masking requirements. Continue reading

King County and Seattle end vax card requirements starting March 1st

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Just a little more than four months after putting the restrictions in place, King County and Seattle are set to lift requirements for customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access indoor spaces like restaurants, bars, and theaters.

You can put down your vax cards and apps as of March 1st.

With new COVID-19 cases and hospitalization decreasing, and over 87% of King County residents over age 12 fully vaccinated, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Public Health – Seattle & King County is lifting the local health order requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry into indoor recreational settings, or outdoor events. The vaccination verification policy will no longer be in effect as of March 1.

“The steady decline in positive cases is much needed positive news. Seattle will continue to follow public health guidance and adopt strategies that best keep our communities safe,” Mayor Bruce Harrell said in the Wednesday afternoon announcement.

“Businesses and organizations may continue to implement their own vaccination verification rules for their establishments,” the announcement reminds.

The lifted requirements will also apply at major outdoor events where the vaccination check policy has been in effect Continue reading

As Seattle prepares to lift pandemic eviction ban, mayor says ready to aid renters, small landlords — UPDATE

Seattle has a plan — or, a date, at least — for ending its pandemic-long restriction on evictions. Mayor Bruce Harrell has announced a two-week extension before a full lifting of the restrictions at the end of February.

As part of the end of the two years of pandemic protections for residential renters and commercial tenants, the city’s Office of Housing will distribute over $25 million in “identified funding to support renters and small landlords, complementing funding being allocated by King County. ” The city will also launch a website “to connect tenants and small landlords to available financial resources, information on rights and protections, and other critical updates needed as the moratoria ends.”

Residential tenants will also have important protections passed by the council in 2020 that will extend eviction restrictions for “at least six months” to renters “who demonstrate enduring financial hardship preventing them from paying rent.”

CHS reported here on the Valentine’s Day deadline, the latest for the ongoing extension of the moratorium. Local governments have begun lifting the bans across the country as some $46 billion in federal emergency rental assistance has trickled into state and local programs to help renters behind on payments.

In Seattle, the estimate in mid 2021 was 60,000 currently behind on rent. More recent estimates put that number closer to 100,000. Continue reading

With spread slowing, Seattle will close city clinics to focus on targeted vaccination efforts

While the West Coast thawing of COVID-19 mask requirements hasn’t yet reached Washington, Seattle is rolling out a new, more targeted approach to vaccinations — a “pivot to a mobile, partner-led strategy to better reach unvaccinated families.”

The city say its clinics have administered nearly 333,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with more than half going to residents of color. But officials say disparities in vaccination rates between white residents and residents of color “continue to be a public health equity challenge and are even more pronounced among children ages 5-11.” Continue reading

‘No community college in the system has closed its doors’ — Seattle Central will face more cutbacks and reductions as enrollment plunge continues — UPDATE

Last year’s graduation was held in a socially distanced celebration on top of the school’s Harvard Ave parking garage

Capitolhillseattle.com/Source: Seattle Colleges

Seattle Central will not be shutting down its campus, closing its doors, and ending its run of 56 years of providing education on Capitol Hill.

But tough numbers will mean hard decisions.

The Broadway school is experiencing ongoing challenges that echo with familiar problems of the pandemic.

Lives have been turned upside down, behaviors have changed, priorities are altered. Falling enrollment and challenging budget forecasts will mean changes with the campus and its siblings in the Seattle Colleges system. The problems are not new and have dragged on since the first COVID restrictions. A “Strategic Budget Reductions and Future Planning Task Force” completed its work long ago.

But the trends have stiffened.

“The declining enrollment trends that necessitated the task force’s work have worsened this year, placing us under greater financial stress,” Terence Hsiao, vice chancellor of finance and operations at Seattle Colleges tells CHS.

The school’s student-run news outlet The Seattle Collegian reported on some of the latest tumult including some play by play of Hsiao’s recent videoconference recapping the system’s financial challenges — and an eye-catching headline: Seattle Central to close its doors in 2023?

The answer, of course, is no… probably. School officials tell CHS there are no plans to close the college. Continue reading