‘A highly precarious situation’ — Seattle’s lonely Thanksgiving appears to have paid off but state officials say Christmas COVID risk remains high with hospitals filling

Washington case counts (Source: www.doh.wa.gov)

After the restrictions, the masks, and the lonely Thanksgiving, things are better in Seattle and King County but state officials say Washington remains at risk of overwhelming its healthcare system with COVID-19 patients.

“Although substantial reductions in transmission have been observed, this reduction has not been sufficient to reverse increases in prevalence or hospitalizations, and daily hospital admissions have remained relatively flat over the first three weeks of December,” the Washington State Department of Health reports in its latest coronavirus situation report (PDF).

State officials said heading into the Christmas holiday that Washington “remains in a highly precarious situation, with prevalence at the same level as it was in mid-November, and daily hospitalizations at a higher level than they were in mid-November.”

Washington hospitals and ICUs continue to have high occupancy despite reductions in non-urgent procedures, according to the state report. Continue reading

Why Capitol Hill’s Millionaire’s Row isn’t a Stay Healthy Block anymore

A Capitol Hill avenue that became a popular addition to the city’s experimentation with community-created walking and riding streets as part of its efforts to address social distancing needs during the COVID-19 crisis has been removed from the program and looks unlikely to return.

The situation on 14th Ave E is an example of the limits of Seattle City Hall’s urbanist-leaning efforts and, the resident who originally applied for the permit says, a prime example of kowtowing to complaints from homeowners and drivers.

“If SDOT continues to insist on these restrictions (and others) then it seems clear to me that they have no intention of allowing the program to continue in a dense urban neighborhood, no
matter how successful the program was,” applicant and area resident Christopher Hoffman tells CHS.

According to Hoffman, his original approval of the program’s implementation on 11 blocks of 14th Ave E, the city’s legendary Millionaire’s Row extending south out of Volunteer Park, came with the basic requirements allowing the use of signs and small barriers to “temporarily close a street to create more outdoor recreation space for people to enjoy while following social distancing guidelines” while allowing “local access, deliveries, waste pickup and emergency vehicles.” Continue reading

COVID-19 updates: First vaccine arrives at UW Medicine as state’s ‘Phase 1a’ of distribution begins

UW Medicine demonstrates one of its ultra-cold freezers needed for storing the first vaccine (Image: UW Medicine)

The state’s “1a” phase of distribution has begun after FDA and Western States Pact emergency approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

State officials say they expect to receive 62,400 doses of vaccine this week with the first distribution will go to 17 sites across 13 counties. The first doses of vaccine will go to people in Phase 1a including “high-risk workers in health care settings, high-risk first responders, and patients and staff of long-term care facilities.” State officials estimate around 500,000 people in Washington will be eligible for the vaccine in phase 1a.

CHS looked at thow distribution will work in Seattle as the Pfizer vaccine is followed by at least two other candidate vaccines in what is expected will be weekly shipments starting in January.

This is no time for ditching the masks and social distancing. It will take months for most people to get the vaccine.

“We believe that if everything goes according to plan, we’ll have most people in Washington vaccinated by mid-summer,” Michele Roberts, one of the leaders of the state DOH COVID-19 vaccine planning group, said in a statement Monday. “The rapid development of these vaccines, with such a high rate of efficacy, is a historic achievement, and will help us defeat COVID-19.” Continue reading

The COVID-19 vaccines are coming to Seattle — now what happens?

A COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer is nearing FDA approval for distribution across the United States. Now what happens here?

The vaccine — especially in the earliest days of distribution — won’t bring an end to soaring daily totals of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths and officials warn that social distancing, hand washing, and masks must remain habitual until the number of people sick with coronavirus nears zero.

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee and state officials have said they are preparing to receive enough vaccine to protect 200,000 people over the final weeks of 2020. Around half of that is lined up to come from Pfizer. The rest will be Moderna’s vaccine which also must still be approved by the FDA. That decision is expected by December 17th.

A third vaccine, from AstraZeneca, is reportedly easier to store and transport and could follow the others closely to speed distribution.

The vaccine candidates are reported to have greater side-effects than the typical flu shot with some people who recieve them likely to need a day or two to recover.

Washington’s adult population is more than 5 million people. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House’s COVID-19 task force has said the typical American can expect to get their shots in April or May. Most children won’t likely be in line for immunization until 2021 when more testing has been completed but it’s not yet clear what the FDA will recommend. This New York Times tool can give you an idea of how long your wait might be.

Washington officials have said “regular weekly shipments” of vaccine will follow and should begin in January. Continue reading

With hospitals reaching danger point, Washington will extend COVID-19 restrictions into January

Washington’s continuing epidemiologic curve shows the surge in new cases

2021 in Washington will begin with the restrictions of 2020 still in place as the surge in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 has continued.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday he would extend through January 4th the restrictions put in place before Thanksgiving on social gatherings and businesses to try to slow the spread of the virus.

“What we do between now — when COVID activity is still at crisis levels — and the time when vaccines are widely available, is literally a matter of life and death,” Inslee said Tuesday. Continue reading

Velocity Dance Center seeks new home as COVID-19 crisis brings 24-year run on Capitol Hill to an end

(Image: Velocity)

A symbol of the neighborhood’s efforts to bring its arts organizations and venues forward amid gentrification and soaring rents, Velocity Dance Center has announced it is leaving its Capitol Hill home due to “financial hardship brought on by the pandemic and government-mandated closures” during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“As Velocity takes this step to stabilize amidst uncertainty, we recognize and make room for the grief and joy that mark growth and change,” the center’s announcement reads. “We are reminded that it is all of you who make Velocity a place of creativity, connection, and care. We are so grateful for all the memories we’ve made together in the space. We understand your grief. We feel it too. But we are also excited to be more flexible. To have the ability to look forward to future programming, collaborations, and a new future home.”

Velocity has been facing the challenge of a possible end to its 12th Ave center in recent years as the nonprofit faced the pressures of the increasingly expensive neighborhood. Continue reading

‘It’s urgent’ — Mayor says launching initiatives to open Cal Anderson, remove East Precinct wall amid encampments and ongoing protests — UPDATE

Video images from Matthew Brian posted by @spekulation

Mayor Jenny Durkan tells CHS that her office will “in coming weeks” launch two initiatives planned with local businesses and community representatives to “restore” Cal Anderson Park and take down the barricades around the East Precinct.

“It’s urgent,” the mayor said Tuesday. “It is our densest neighborhood with a very high ratio of people who are renters. There’s very little open space.” The mayor said business and property is also at the front of the discussion after months of demonstrations and ongoing police and protester clashes around the precinct, the park, and the Capitol Hill core.

Beyond reopening a park and clearing the sidewalk at 12th and Pine, the initiatives would be most important for their implications for the neighborhood’s homelessness crisis and the ongoing, nightly protest and unrest. Continue reading

In Washington, your phone can now tell if you may have been exposed to COVID-19 — and, if you may have exposed somebody else

Washington has now joined the growing number of states enabling smartphone notifications if someone you’ve been close to ends up testing positive for COVID-19.

Opting into the WA Notify system jointly created by Google and Apple will add phone users to what Gov. Jay Inslee Monday called “a simple, anonymous exposure notification tool.” Continue reading

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