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

(Image: CHS)


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

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- 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

Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary joins network of school clinics working to keep families healthy

The school-based health center at Rainier Beach High School (Image: Public Health)

With reporting by Jake Goldstein-Street

Though Seattle’s public schools will continue to focus on online education through at least January, many campuses are open to provide in-person health-care services. Thanks to a new partnership, two new school health centers are opening this fall in the Central District and on Capitol Hill.

The Seattle School Board approved $315,000 in funding earlier this month for a new school-based health center at Lowell Elementary in Capitol Hill aimed at providing quality care to the school’s population that is disproportionately made up of 亚洲真人娱乐homeless and low-income students.

The project, a partnership between the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and Country Doctor Community Health Center, with a total cost of about $615,000, is also being funded through a $300,000 “Distressed Schools Grant” from the state awarded earlier this year.

The money is being tapped from a nearly $700 million capital levy passed by over 70% of Seattle voters in 2013.

“I just want to say how excited I am to finally see this come forward, we’ve certainly been talking about it in community for a long time,” board President Zachary DeWolf, whose district includes the school, said about the plan as it was brought before the board last month. Continue reading

Facing the COVID-19 ‘fall surge,’ health officials encourage new habits when it comes to masks

As much as we all would like to point at outbreaks at medical facilities and among college students, we can only blame ourselves when it comes to a steady, troubling rise in COVID-19 cases underway around Seattle.

And we have company. Washington health officials said this week that a “fall surge” in the virus can be seen in case totals across the United States and Europe.

“It started with the smoke event and the turn in the weather that we think brought a lot of people indoors,” Seattle-King County health officer Jeff Duchin said in this KUOW report on the surge. This week, more than 83,000 new U.S. cases were reported in a single day — a new record and a step toward what officials predict will bring more than 100,000 new cases every day in the country.

Despite the surge, there are better signs of hope than the first two peaks seen this spring and then again in summer. Hospitalizations and deaths have slowed. And we know much more about how to stamp down the spread. Continue reading

Masked and distanced, Seattle’s path through COVID-19 to ‘Phase 3’ is unclear

In some areas of our state, kids are playing organized sports and libraries are allowed to open.

With the nation’s mood about the coronavirus about to radically shift, it’s not clear what comes next for areas like King County and Seattle that have been on a more cautious path to reopening than the rest of the state and most of the country even as metrics around infections and preparedness here near or exceed goals set by health officials.

“Things are different from place to place across county lines,” Gov. Jay Inslee told CHS Thursday. “That creates frustration.”

“We could avoid that frustration by just having one phase, one category for the whole state,” Inslee said. But that would mean areas “that have very, very little or no pandemic action” would also remain locked down.

The cautious tone on reopening Seattle from Inslee, who has been a leading and visible proponent of facemasks in the battle against COVID-19, was struck Thursday even before the crisis over positive tests at the White House became public. Continue reading

Seattle Community Fridge: a new network of ‘Little Libraries’ for fresh food across the city

(Image: Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

By Margo Vansynghel / Crosscut.com

If you didn’t know it was there, it would be easy to miss. To find it, ignore the view of Elliott Bay and make your way down a set of gravel steps. Walk past the apple tree in full fruit toward the small plots of land teeming with zucchinis and tomatoes. There it is, on your right, in front of the toolshed: a small, unassuming fridge, painted sky blue and decorated with a pattern of luscious peaches and emerald leaves.

“FREE FOOD!” black letters on the fridge exclaim. “Take what you need, leave what you can.”

The refrigerator, plugged in and nestled in the leafy shade of Seattle’s Danny Woo Community Garden, is part of a new, citywide network of so-called “community fridges.” Taking after similar projects in New York, Oakland, San Francisco, Milwaukee and other U.S. cities, a local group of volunteers installs and stocks the fridges as a way to get free, fresh food and produce to people who may need it, no questions asked. Amid rising food insecurity, this literally cool food pantry can keep produce and other surplus food donated by volunteers — eggs, bread,  yogurt — fresh for longer.

“We all need food, and we all deserve it,” says Christina Charlton, one of the Seattle Community Fridge’s volunteers. Plus, there’s plenty of it, says Jordan Saibic, another volunteer. “A lot of people don’t have access to food, [but] there is actually so much food that is thrown away, either from restaurants or grocery stores,” Saibic says. Continue reading

Smoke Season extended: Seattle’s terrible air quality forecast to continue — UPDATE: Rain but no relief… yet

sea turtle via Flickr)

Conditions Monday Morning

A predicted onshore push of wet weather failed to materialize Monday leaving Seattle with a forecast for dangerous smoke lasting through the week with no clear end to the poor air quality.

A federal air quality alert in place through Monday morning was expected to be extended: “System offshore weakening today,” the National Weather Service tweeted. “Lesser chances for showers and lighter winds = little smoke improvement.” The service said it wouldn’t bother to post its latest smoke predictions as conditions are even more terrible than the calculations and the model is “underestimating current smoke in the region.” Continue reading

‘Super Massive’ smoke plume arrives over Seattle — UPDATE

Seattle’s smoke-filled sunrise (Image: CHS)

The expected push of heavy smoke from West Coast wildfires arrived across the Seattle region late Thursday night as air sensors tipped from “moderate” to “unhealthy” readings across the area.

The city woke up to a grey, fog-like layer and predictions that the smoke will last through the weekend and possibly into Monday. Continue reading

2020 Seattle smoke season arrives as Washington, Oregon, and California burn — UPDATE: ‘Smoke Alert!’

GOES imagery from Wednesday morning shows smoke moving northward

Unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke and ash that arrived in Seattle following the Labor Day holiday will likely persist and — possibly — increase in the skies above the city into Friday, forecasters say.

Seattle’s air quality Wednesday was considered “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” according to official guidelines and ities continue to encourage people to stay inside and limit exposure. Continue reading