COVID-19 Information

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The City of Mercer Island is committed to sharing up-to-date information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with the community. These pages share the latest information, resources, and more.

Click on the shortcut buttons below to access the most requested information.



The City of Mercer Island is committed to sharing up-to-date information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with the community. These pages share the latest information, resources, and more.

Click on the shortcut buttons below to access the most requested information.


  • News for the Week of October 19

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    News and headlines for the week of October 19.

    Relief Grants Available for MI Businesses and Organizations. On October 20, the Mercer Island City Council unanimously approved a new grant program to support Mercer Island businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19. Apply for a relief grant today!

    MI Thrift Shop Resumes Donation Collections (New Process). Beginning October 31, the City’s Thrift Shop will resume accepting donations by temporarily relocating all donation center operations to the Mercer Island Community and Event Center (8236 SE 24th Street). This will allow more space for processing and the ability to quarantine all donated items. Initially, donation hours will be on Saturdays only, from 10:00am-3:00pm. Visit the Thrift Shop website for all of the details!

    Resource: King County launches new webpage on flu resources for older adults and people with disabilities. Why is it important to get a flu shot this year? Getting a flu shot will make it easier for you and your primary care provider to decide how to treat any viral infection this winter. There is a lot of overlap between flu symptoms and early COVID-19 symptoms. If you have any symptoms and you have had the flu vaccine, that will be useful information to help decide on the best course of testing and treatment for you. Free to low-cost flu vaccine is available in King County. Learn more at www.kingcounty.gov/findaclinic.

    8 Things to Know about Vaccine Planning. There is currently no authorized or approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States; however, the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program has been working since the pandemic started to make a COVID-19 vaccine available as soon as possible. There may be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of 2020. If there is limited supply, some groups may be recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine first. Find out the 8 things you need to know about vaccine planning here.

    Washington’s ‘Interim COVID-19 Vaccination Plan’ submitted to CDC. The Washington State Department of Health submitted its interim vaccination plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by the stated deadline of October 16, 2020. Click here for the interim plan.

    100,000. On October 22, the State reported the 100,000th Washingtonian diagnosed with COVID-19. A sad and sobering milestone. Click here for more.

    Concern that climb in cases means ‘fall surge’ is starting; Experts say we must act now to reverse trend. Data from the Washington State Department of Health show that case numbers in western Washington counties are climbing at an alarming rate, near or beyond previous peaks in some areas. As cases in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties continue to trend sharply upward, health officials warn we may now be entering the fall surge. Read the full news release here.

    Safer Gatherings: Coping While Apart. During normal times, the fall and winter months are wonderful times to gather. So, limiting and changing the way in which we gather with family and friends isn’t easy. It may cause feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. This time of year, it’s important that we practice self-care and support others who may be feeling lonely or isolated. For more information and tips on safer gatherings this fall, visit coronavirus.wa.gov/gatherings.

    Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Your chances of getting COVID-19 while traveling also depend on whether you and those around you take steps to protect yourself and others, such as wearing masks and staying 6 feet away from people outside your household. Airports, bus stations, train stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be hard to keep your distance from others. Click here for more information.

    Resource: King County is hiring – join the COVID-19 response team. See latest job opportunities the County is offering related to managing the pandemic. Visit their main jobs homepage for a list of all other job opportunities with Public Health - Seattle & King County.

    Resource: WIC Helps Families in Many Ways. Washington WIC gives families access to nutritious food and provides health screening, risk assessment, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health and social services. The program provides essential services for pregnant people, new and breastfeeding moms, infants, and children under five. Most pregnant people and young children on Medicaid or Basic Food (SNAP) qualify for WIC services. Given layoffs and other economic consequences related to COVID-19, people may be seeking WIC services for the first time. WIC has capacity and welcomes new families. To find WIC services in your area: Text "WIC" to 96859, visit ParentHelp123's Resource Finder, or call the Help Me Grow WA Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

  • News for the Week of October 12

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    News and headlines for the week of October 12.

    Inslee extends eviction moratorium, public utilities proclamation. On October 14, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the extensions of the eviction moratorium and public utility proclamations as COVID-19 continues to impact the finances of Washingtonians statewide. Both proclamations were extended to December 31. Click here for the Moratorium on Evictions and here for the utilities Ratepayer Assistance.

    Businesses face fines for coronavirus mask violations, but most are complying. Since mid-July, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has looked into mask complaints concerning more than 4,200 retailers, restaurants and other businesses in the state. In the vast majority of cases, the businesses that were violating the rules complied after L&I staff explained the requirements, or the initial complaints to the state were not substantiated. The agency has fined eight companies for violating the state public mask mandate and endangering their workers’ health. Three others were cited after public mask complaints led to L&I finding worker mask violations. Read the full news release here.

    COVID-19 transmission increasing in western Washington, rates flat but higher in eastern Washington. On October 14, the State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report on COVID-19 transmission. Click here to read the latest WA SitRep.

    Cases are rising in King County – What does that mean for schools? Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again in King County, after two months of decline. What does this mean for in-person school? The rise in community transmission highlights the importance of schools being prepared to implement the recommended COVID-19 health and safety measures before returning to in-person instruction. Click here for the full article.

    Resource: Eligible families strongly encouraged to apply for free and reduced-price meal programs. While all students may be provided free meals through the end of December, it is still critical that eligible families complete the application this fall. Many students across Washington state rely on school meals to meet their nutritional needs. As the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue, more families are taking advantage of free meals provided by school districts. Families are strongly encouraged to complete a School Meal Application now, which determines a student’s eligibility for free and reduced-price meals. Read more here.

    New Federal Grant Supporting WA Businesses. A newly announced federal grant supports Safe Start projects and partnerships aimed at helping Washington state businesses restart, rebuild and become more resilient. A $15 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, one of the largest such grants in the nation, will support a number of initiatives ultimately aimed at helping Washington small businesses and strengthening core industry clusters. Click here for more information.

    High Volume Testing Locations in King County. King County has added a webpage with information for high volume drive-through and walk-up sites aimed at increasing access to testing across our community. Traveling outside of King County? The State has added a testing site locator map. Click here for the statewide map.

    Reducing coronavirus risk as we spend more time indoors for fall and winter. As the season changes, cooler temperatures mean more time indoors. The risk from COVID-19 increases with indoor gatherings compared to outdoors, but there are ways to reduce the spread and stay healthy. We talked to Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin about COVID-19 risks indoors and what to do about it. Click here for more.

    Statewide COVID-19 vaccine distribution progress update. The State Department of Health (DOH) continues to make progress with our COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning efforts. We are working with the federal government and local partners to plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available. DOH staff are on track to turn it in to the CDC by the October 16 due date. Click here to read the State's update.

    Resource: Extended foster care eviction and rent assistance. The Washington State Department of Commerce: Office of Homeless Youth allocated $1 million in CARES Act funding to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to provide stipends to young adults who will age out or have aged out of Extended Foster Care at age 21, between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020. The purpose of the funding is to support housing stability for youth who exited the Extended Foster Care Program at age 21. Read more here.

    Resource: Protections for Energy Customers affected by COVID-19 Extended. On October 6, state regulators approved protections for electric and natural gas utility customers who are struggling to pay their bills due to financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission ordered investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington to continue a moratorium on disconnections for nonpayment until April 30, 2021. Also, utilities will continue to waive deposits for new customers and all late fees through Oct. 27, 2021. Utilities must also work with customers to establish long-term payment arrangements for up to 18 months for residential customers, and 12 months for small commercial customers. In addition to payment arrangements, all utilities must also create a COVID-19 bill payment assistance program funded at 1% of their Washington state retail revenues, in addition to any existing local and federal assistance programs. Follow this link for more information.

    How Metro is Keeping You Safe. Metro’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Report, which is the first compilation of the actions Metro took to maintain safe and reliable public transportation services during the pandemic and summarizes the agency’s approach to support the region’s future recovery is now available. Even at the pandemic’s highest points, Metro riders made over 100,000 trips every day. For more on the County’s transportation response and recovery plan, click here.


  • News for the Week of October 26

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    News and highlights for the week of October 26.

    COVID-19 activity intensifying across Washington state. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report on COVID-19 transmission, which shows a general rise in the intensity of the epidemic in both western and eastern Washington. Click here for the report.

    "Stay Safe - Vote Safe" Proclamation. Stay Safe - Vote Safe Proclamation issued to ensure voters and voting centers are protected during the pandemic. Governor Inslee issued a "Stay Safe - Vote Safe" proclamation that temporarily suspends any COVID-related orders that could be interpreted to restrict access to voting centers and student engagement HUBS by persons intending to register to vote, obtain a ballot, receive assistance with a ballot, deposit a ballot or use other voting-related services. Learn more about the proclamation and how to vote here.

    Ventilation and Air Quality for Reducing Transmission of COVID-19. The DOH has issued new ventilation and air quality guidance(External link) to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Good ventilation and indoor air quality are important in helping reduce airborne exposure to viruses, including COVID-19. However, ventilation and air filtration are not effective alone. They are tools that must be used along with other measures. Click here for more information.

    Health clinics go the extra mile during the pandemic. “People are afraid to come in.” As the pandemic unfolded, the state's sexual and reproductive health (SRH) clinics worked round-the-clock to ensure services were available and accessible. Click here.

    Second-half 2020 property taxes due November 2; deadline will not be extended. King County property owners who pay their property taxes themselves, rather than through a mortgage lender, have until Monday, November 2 to pay the second half of their 2020 bill. After that date, interest charges and penalties will be added to the tax bill. The Pierce and Snohomish county treasurers are also maintaining this deadline in their respective jurisdictions. While the first half payment deadline of April 30 was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extension of the second half deadline could create substantial financial risk for many cities, counties, school districts, fire districts, hospital districts, and other special purpose districts. These jurisdictions rely heavily on the timely receipt of the year's second installment of property tax revenue to make December debt service payments. Find out more, including how to pay property taxes, at the full news release here.

    Flu Vaccine Now Available for Uninsured Adults at No Cost. Twenty-three Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies across the state will offer flu vaccine free of charge through June 2021 to uninsured adults. Click here for more information.

    When staying home isn't safe: Domestic violence in King County during a pandemic. The Governor's Stay Home Order, business closures and other strategies helped slow the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the social isolation and stress resulting from these efforts, combined with less access to external supports, may be increasing the occurrence of family violence. Learn more here.

    Department of Health to release monthly report on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is releasing new data about how many cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) are occurring statewide. This report will be published monthly and include county-level counts of MIS-C cases. MIS-C is a condition that causes inflammation in different body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. The MIS-C report will updated monthly and posted at www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/420-290-MIS-COVID-Report.pdf

    Care for caregivers: Tips and resources for unsung heroes. While caregiving can be joyful and rewarding, it can also be overwhelming or stressful for even the most resilient people. COVID-19 has made this difficult role even harder. Explore tips and resources to support your emotional well-being.

    Safer Gatherings. This time of year, families and friends will be making choices about whether or not to gather for celebrations, game days or other seasonal events. See ideas here.

    October 30 Situation Report. Click here for highlights and information from the 35th week of the City’s response to the pandemic.

    Data

    If you are into data dashboards and reports, check out the latest here:

    Increases in Food Needs in King County, WA, Spring-Summer 2020. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community that have led to business and school closures, food insecurity has increased in King County. Full report here.

    Summary Report on Deaths Associated with COVID-19 – September 2020. The report provides information about the overall count of deaths associated with COVID-19 and the toll that the virus is taking on particular segments of our community, including older adults and some communities of color. Click here to read more.

    Changes in Transportation Patterns Follow Community Mitigation Policies in King County, WA February – May 2020. Transportation patterns changed immediately after strategies were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Low traffic volumes are one way to quantify whether the community is staying home and avoiding non-essential activities. Report available here.

    New data report: Computer and Internet Access in King County during the pandemic. Overall, access to adequate internet coverage is high (96%) but not all King County households have equal access to computers or high-speed internet that allow employees to work at home or children to participate in remote schooling. Click here.

    View other data reports related to COVID-19

    New family violence data dashboard

    New health insurance and access to health care data dashboard


  • News for the Week of September 28

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    Lots of news this week! Expand this article for the latest headlines, resources, and information for the week of September 28.

    Finding Mercer Island COVID-19 Data. King County has updated their data dashboards again and things have shifted a bit. If you are looking for Mercer Island specific information, click on the City-level tab on the daily summary page (there is a menu just above the charts and directly above the small King County logo). Once the City-level page finishes loading, select Mercer Island from the drop-down list of cities to compare. Numbers as of September 30 (King County staff update data between 3-5pm): 181 positive cases (up 2 from the previous day), 5 deaths (no new), 15 hospitalizations (no new), 8,352 all test results (64 new), and 5,911 people tested (33 new).

    COVID-19 Literature Review. The UW’s Alliance for Pandemic Preparedness provides the public with a daily newsletter summarizing the latest COVID-19 scientific literature. If you are looking for more in-depth information on the pandemic, check it out today.

    Health officials investigating COVID-19 outbreak at Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie. Public Health – Seattle & King County is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 associated with the Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie. Public Health is recommending anyone who visited the Salish Lodge & Spa overnight or as a guest during the day get tested for COVID-19 and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Salish Lodge & Spa is working with Public Health to implement recommendations. Follow this link for the full press release.

    Washington prepares to deploy new rapid COVID-19 tests. Within the next five to ten days the Department of Health will receive and distribute the first batch of Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test kits for COVID-19 from the federal government. These are rapid tests that can return results in as little as 15 minutes. The first batch will include 149,000 kits, and the state anticipates receiving nearly 2.3 million total tests between now and December. Learn more here.

    Resource: COVID-19 Child Care Support. Do you need help with child care costs? You may qualify for financial assistance to pay for child care if you live or work in King County, fall within income guidelines and your income, work schedule, or access to child care has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 or you are an essential worker. Click here for more info.

    COVID-19 in Children and Teens: Information for parents and caregivers about COVID-19 in children and teens. While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Children, like adults, who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms (“asymptomatic”) can still spread the virus to others. Follow this link to read on.

    Flu vaccine should be considered “essential” this year. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, autumn brings with it another unwanted visitor – the flu. The presence of both viruses could put more people in the hospital and strain Washington’s health care system. While we don’t yet have a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, we do have one to prevent flu. State health experts want you to take action. Learn more here.

    Resource: Free Vaccination Clinics in Kent on October 7 and October 17. Public Health – Seattle & King County is organizing two drive-thru clinics at the ShoWare Center in Kent on Wednesday, October 7 and Saturday, October 17 (previously October 10) in collaboration with the Seattle Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA) and the Kent School District. We’ll be offering all vaccines required for K-12 school entry (Hep B, Varicella, Polio, MMR, Tdap, DTaP plus flu vaccine to kids ages 4-18). All vaccinations will be provided at no cost and available to all kids regardless of insurance status. SVNA will be providing adult flu (at no cost to uninsured and underinsured community members). The clinics are open to all King County residents. For more info visit the Find a Vaccination Clinic webpage.

    Antigen test results now being reported weekly. On September 30, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) started publishing a weekly report of positive antigen test results. Antigen tests can provide results in minutes, compared to much longer wait times for most molecular test results. Some antigen testing is already happening across the state, and that will only increase in the coming months, with more than 2 million Abbott BinaxNOW™ tests reportedly on the way from the federal government. Click here for more information.

    Higher education's response to COVID-19. This fall, higher education institutions are grappling with how to balance quality education with the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. Collaboration between Public Health and local colleges has allowed for questions, discussion, and support as they determine how to achieve this balance. For the full article, click here.

    Updated Recommendations for Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Caring for Newborns. Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 may be at increased risk for other adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth. Click here for more info.

    Transmission at a crossroads in Washington state going into fall. On September 25, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report. The report shows COVID-19 case counts continue to decrease overall in both eastern and western Washington, though some counties are experiencing plateaus or increases in disease activity. Click here for more information.

    Discrepancy found in state epidemiology report. The Department of Health reported 992 new cases of COVID-19 on September 25. This includes 486 cases from Clark County that had been previously reported but had not been entered into the state’s data system. DOH and Clark County are actively collaborating to ensure that any remaining discrepancies are resolved promptly. For more on this story click here.


    More updated regulations/guidance from the County and/or the Governor’s office:


  • News for the Week of October 5

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    News and headlines for the week of October 5.

    Update on vaccine planning from Washington State Department of Health. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is making steady progress making plans around an expected COVID-19 vaccine. The department is encouraged by the information the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released on Tuesday clarifying the process for FDA review and licensure of COVID-19 vaccines. For more information, click here.

    Governor Relaxes some Phase 2 Activities. On October 6, Governor Inslee announced more activities will be permitted in each county statewide, depending on their specific Recovery Phase including newly relaxed restrictions on movie theaters, restaurants, real estate, youth sports, adult recreation, league games, and more. Click here for details.

    Flu Season is Here. According to health officials, the flu vaccine should be considered “essential” this year. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, autumn brings with it another unwanted visitor – the flu. The presence of both viruses could put more people in the hospital and strain Washington’s health care system. We may not have a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 at this time but we do have one to prevent flu. State health experts want you to take action. Click here for information on how to take action.

    Emergency Warning Signs of COVID-19. As we head into cold and flu season, it is important to understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and when to seek medical help. The CDC reminds us to keep an eye on our flu-like symptoms that could be COVID-19. If you or a family member is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately: Trouble breathing, Persistent pain or pressure in the chest, New confusion, Inability to wake or stay awake, Bluish lips or face. Click here for more.

    K–12 Internet access program allows more students to learn from home. This week, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) finalized contracts with three internet service providers — Ziply, Presidio, and Comcast — to provide the service to up to 60,000 students and their families through the end of the 2020–21 school year at no cost to the family. The program is reserved for students who are low-income and did not have internet access before August 2020. To participate in the program, potentially eligible families should receive information, including a promo/offer code from a provider, from their local school district. Families may also contact their district to request information. More information from OSPI is available here.

    Grants available for art and cultural organizations. The Washington State Department of Commerce and the Washington Arts Commission have partnered to provided federal CARES Act funding to art and cultural organizations impacted by COVID-19. Grants are available up to $10,000 each, no funding match is required.

    Technical assistance for minority and non-English speaking business owners. Non-English speaking and other multi-ethnic small business owners are closing at disproportionately higher rates due to COVID-19. These business owners now have more places to seek help. Commerce has partnered with 20 organizations across the state to providing targeted technical assistance to help with access to funding and other help. Click here for more.

    Supporting others in crisis. Unlike other health emergencies, mental health crises don't often have consistent signs, instructions, or resources on how to help or what to expect. Learning about mental health is an important first step. Read more here.

    October 9 Situation Report.. Click here for highlights and information from the 32nd week of the City’s response to the pandemic.

    More updated regulations/guidance from the County and/or the Governor’s office:

  • News for the Week of September 21

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    Here are the latest headlines, resources, and information for the week of September 21.

    Free Drive-Thru Vaccination Clinics and More Vaccination Opportunities. The Seattle Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA) is hosting a series of drive-thru flu clinics for community members ages 4+ on various dates and times, and at different locations. All insurances accepted, no cost to uninsured and underinsured community members. Register and learn more here. Please note: additional clinic date and locations will be added in late September and early October.

    Celebrating Fall with Local Farms. Local farms offer a wide variety of seasonal produce, fresh-cut flowers, cider, pumpkins, and more. Help support local farmers, hit especially hard by the pandemic, by visiting a local farm and buying local. Click here for farm directories.

    New Standards for Washington Airports. On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington is setting new requirements for commercial airports and recommendations for airlines. This is to help protect the health and safety of workers, passengers and crew in the aviation sector. For more information, follow this link.

    Halloween Tips from Public Health and the CDC. Halloween has some good celebration options since many activities can be outside and mask wearing is part of the holiday, but there are still some risks with COVID circulating. King County Public Health and the CDC have tips to prevent illness, help our community stay on track for reopening. Follow these links for information from Public Health and the CDC.

    Renewing Your Drivers License in the time of COVID-19. Washington’s Department of Licensing has moved to online services. If you need to meet with a representative in person, you’ll need an appointment. Get all the details about DOL’s updated services here.

    Guide for Convention Centers, Meeting Rooms, and Other Venues. Earlier this week, Governor Inslee issued guidance for venues like event and convention centers, hotel meeting rooms, etc. allowing for meetings, training, testing, and more. For more information on the guidelines for opening, click here.

    Interactive Economic Recovery Dashboard lets you track the state’s economic recovery, with information on employment, businesses, assistance programs, and consumer behavior. Click here for more.

    King County’s COVID-19 Contact tracing efforts gain strength. The case investigators at Public Health—Seattle & King County are able to reach the vast majority of people who test positive for COVID-19 in King County. And most people are taking the important step of isolating themselves during their contagious period. To check out their new data dashboard that shows the numbers, and it demonstrates the rapid growth of Public Health’s contact tracing efforts, click here.


  • News for the Week of September 7

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    Here are the latest headlines, resources, and information for the week of September 7.

    Alongside the ongoing transmission of COVID-19, common colds are on the rise in Seattle and King County. At the beginning of 2020, the Seattle Flu Study partnered with Public Health – Seattle & King County to launch a program to track and monitor COVID-19 mitigation efforts as well as other respiratory viruses. Click here for more information on the study.

    Temporary cancellation of COVID-19 testing sites for Friday, Sept. 11. Due to poor outdoor air quality from regional wildfires, the following outdoor COVID-19 testing sites have been canceled for Friday Sept. 11th: Valley Regional Fire Authority in Auburn, HealthPoint - Renton Drive-Through, and Downtown Seattle Public Health Center. All other testing locations remain open since testing is done indoors. Click here for testing sites.

    Wildfire smoke & COVID-19 are a bad mix. Not only do we need to continue to protect our communities against COVID-19, but now there are life-threatening fires throughout the state. Some of our neighbors have had to save their lives by leaving their homes, and hoping the fire spares their property. Many of us are struggling with the poor air quality from wildfire smoke. Follow this link for more on the effects of wildfire smoke on your health and COVID-19.

    Suicide prevention in focus for the month of September. Everyone has a role in suicide prevention. In observance of National Suicide Prevention Month, Washingtonians are asked to #BeThe1To help prevent suicide. Vigilance is especially important this year due to the increased stress, anxiety and depression people may be experiencing with COVID-19. Normalizing conversation around mental health helps break stigma. Click here to learn more about how to be present, supportive and strong for those who may be going through a difficult time.

    Update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution & planning progress in Washington State. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) continues to make progress with our COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning efforts. Visit the DOH newsroom for the latest.

    What happens when you get a COVID-19 test? Maybe it’s happened to you: you wake up one morning with a new cough and a slight fever, and you’re not sure what to do. You’re worried it might be COVID, so what are your next steps? Getting tested is one of the best ways to protect your family, friends, and community, but if you’ve never been tested before, you might be a little nervous. Check out what really happens when you get a COVID test.


  • Special Shopping Hours

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    To help Island seniors and other at-risk populations, local grocery stores and pharmacies have implemented a special shopping hour(s).

    QFC (both locations): 7:00-8:00 AM, Monday-Friday

    Walgreens: 8:00-9:00 AM, Tuesday (offering Senior Discount)

    Rite-Aid: 9:00-10:00 AM, Monday-Friday


    Questions? Contact individual stores.

    It takes all of us to stay healthy during this pandemic. Please follow these guidelines from Public Health when you go out:


  • News for the Week of September 14

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    Here are the latest headlines, resources, and information for the week of September 14.

    Additional weekly $300 unemployment benefit payment to be paid to eligible claimants. The state's application for the Lost Wages Assistance program has been approved. ESD will start processing payments of $300 to eligible claimants for this new program on Monday, Sept. 21. Payments will be retroactive for all weeks for which the claimant was eligible, and for which funding is available from the federal government. Upon the processing date, eligible claimants will receive the funds as soon as their bank processes the payment. Refer to the Employment Security Department website for details.

    Schools Preparing for a Measured Return to In-Person Learning. King County’s K-12 schools are back in session. For most students, the 2020-2021 school year is starting remotely and Zoom is the new classroom. Even though the majority of the county’s school districts are teaching students remotely, they are also hard at work behind the scenes to be ready to provide in-person learning once COVID-19 transmission rates are lower. Click here for more information.

    King County’s COVID-19 Contact tracing efforts gain strength. The case investigators at Public Health—Seattle & King County are able to reach the vast majority of people who test positive for COVID-19 in King County. And most people are taking the important step of isolating themselves during their contagious period. Follow this link for the full article.

    A Conversation on Hope and Hopelessness. Adjusting to the changes COVID-19 has imposed has been very difficult for everyone. Some are navigating different layers of grief and loss. Many are feeling varying waves of hope and hopelessness. For those with mental health conditions, this time has been a continuation and possibly, an amplification of those thoughts and feelings. For more, click here.

    Department of Health releases initial case investigation and contact tracing performance metrics. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) today published new data related to COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing efforts in Washington state. These data will now be available for the public to view via PDF and updated weekly. Click here for more.

    COVID-19 activity declining in Washington state with the help of face coverings and distancing. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report, which reflects an overall decline in COVID-19 activity as of late August. The report also highlights encouraging signs that keeping our distance, limiting gathering size and wearing face coverings are working to slow the spread of the disease. Click here for more information.

    September 18 Situation Report. Click here for highlights and information from the 29th week of the City’s response to the pandemic.

  • Public Health: The Danger of Ending Social Distancing too Early

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    Published by Public Health Insider, a publication of Public Health Seattle - King County (PHSKC)

    The danger of ending social distancing too early: A conversation with our Health Officer

    By , PHSKC

    You may have heard about a couple of recent studies that suggest that our social distancing measures appear to be making a difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in King County. That’s encouraging news.

    The studies also emphasize that we need to continue to stay strong with the stay at home order if we are to continue to succeed in decreasing and delaying the outbreak peak. But we also see the enormous economic toll that social distancing orders are creating.

    To understand more about where we are in the outbreak and what it would take to relax some of the social distancing measures, we asked our health officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin to talk about both the communicable disease aspects and undesirable consequences of COVID-19.

    If the initial studies suggest that our efforts at social distancing are working to “flatten the curve,” why is it so important to stay steadfast with the Stay Home order and other social distancing measures?

    People in King County deserve the credit for making a real difference in the course of this outbreak by staying at home and decreasing non-essential close contact with others. I understand how difficult this is. Everyone should know that these sacrifices are preventing many illnesses and deaths throughout our community, including family members, friends and loved ones, and co-workers.

    The modeling done by IHME at the University of Washington is somewhat reassuring, but the conclusions are not certain. For example, the model assumes that our outbreak is similar to Wuhan, China and that the current social distancing efforts are unchanged over time. It doesn’t show what happens if people stop complying or are not as effective as they assume.

    Our success at distancing has limited the number of people that have been infected, and that also means most of us remain susceptible to the virus. If we go back to business as usual, many people will be infected relatively quickly because COVID-19 remains circulating in the population. We remain at risk for a large outbreak that would overwhelm the healthcare system. That’s why the recent studies clearly state that we need to continue to stay strong with the Stay Home order for now.

    No one should take these findings as an indication to relax our social distancing strategy at this time. The threat of a rebound that could overwhelm the healthcare system remains if we let up too soon.

    What does it look like if the healthcare system is overwhelmed?

    Right now we’re witnessing that in other places, such as New York City, where they are short on healthcare workers and critical resources to provide the usual level of care that people expect from our hospitals. And even though we’ve “flattened the curve” and decreased the number who are infected locally, our hospitals have needed to care for large numbers of COVID-19 patients, many of whom are seriously ill.

    Because of our current success at distancing, today our hospitals are able to safely provide the usual level of care to the people who need it. This is also because of many major changes hospitals and healthcare systems have made to their usual operations in order to prepare to care for large numbers of COVID-19 cases.

    But if we should get a dramatic spike in people who need to be hospitalized, it will badly stretch the system. In the worst scenarios, it could result in severe scarcity issues where it could be extremely difficult to meet the demand for lifesaving care. We must do everything we can to prevent getting to that level of crisis. It’s the most compelling reason to stay steady with social distancing as best we can.

    There seems to be a local historical lesson from the influenza pandemic in 1918. What happened then and what can we learn from it?

    During that influenza pandemic, the health officer and the mayor of Seattle put some pretty strong social distancing measures in place, and the city fared much better than other cities at the beginning. But when victory was declared in World War One, people emerged out of their homes in celebration, and then all the closures and prohibitions against mass gatherings ended. Shortly thereafter, there was a serious second wave of illness that lasted for several months. It’s a sobering lesson about the danger of prematurely relaxing social distancing.

    At the same time, we need to consider the hardship that a prolonged Stay Home order could have on those who are struggling to get by. So we’ll be continually evaluating what aspects of social distancing need to stay in place, and what could be scaled back.

    What needs to happen before social distancing measures could scale back?

    When it appears safe, we will need to consider the gradual relaxing of one or more of our social distancing measures and carefully begin resume of our normal “pre-COVID-19” activities. These measures include the Governor’s Stay at Home order and school closures, cancellation of gatherings, and directive to stay six feet apart. During this time we will need to carefully monitor COVID-19 illnesses and deaths and our healthcare system’s ability to cope so that we can adjust course quickly if things head in a dangerous direction.

    Some key indicators we’ll look closely at include:

    How many people are getting sick from COVID-19:

    We would want to see a steady decrease in the number of people getting sick and needing hospitalization for at least 2 weeks before we do anything that may make those numbers go up.

    Health care system readiness:

    When social distancing measures loosen, we should expect to see an increase in cases. We need to make sure our health care system has what it needs in terms of staff, bed space, medical supplies, and equipment to take care of the sick people in our community before we discontinue social distancing measures.

    Testing:

    Our ability to keep COVID-19 cases at a manageable level after relaxing social distancing measures requires widespread availability of rapid testing and reporting of results so that people who are infected can take quick action to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That is not yet available.

    Testing is necessary to have the most accurate picture of the extent and spread of the outbreak to inform strategies for relaxing social distancing. Widespread testing is also necessary for public health disease investigation to decrease community spread of infection.

    Public Health readiness:

    Public health agencies will need capacity to do a large number of thorough case and contact investigations in order to identify people who are infected and their close contacts. This would be necessary so that these people are quickly isolated or quarantined in order to limit spread to others. This is the main thing that needs to happen to allow us to start resuming normal activities safely while avoiding a dangerous increase in new illnesses. People will need to understand the critical importance of isolating themselves when ill and rapidly helping inform their close contacts so they can quarantine themselves away from others and be tested if necessary based on guidance from public health.

    To be successful, this work will need to occur at an unprecedented scale and speed, many times beyond what public health departments across the country can do currently. It requires a massive and rapid infusion of resources including disease investigators and information management tools.

    Availability of proven treatments:

    There are multiple therapies currently under evaluation to treat people with COVID-19, and the availability of these therapies will also be considered in our calculus of when to ease up on the mitigation measures.

    How do we consider the threat of a rebound of COVID-19 along with the needs of the community?

    We must continue to advocate for and provide support to those who are suffering from unintended economic and social impacts of this necessary disease control strategy.

    If people cannot practice social distancing or stay in isolation and quarantine because they fear losing their jobs, or because there is no one to help them get the food or medication they need, not only are will they be at increased risk for infection but it will prolong and worsen the outbreak for all of us. The degree to which we can provide support for all of our residents so that they can make safe choices will have benefit to the entire community. This includes access to wage and employment security, food security, childcare, sustainable rent assistance and evictions protections, and paid sick leave. It also includes strong support for seniors and people with disabilities.

    Small businesses should have access to grants and loans to keep business open should they need to close due to lack of staffing for a period of time while employees are recovering.

    Keep in mind that we may be able to relax some measures while retaining others so that we can take a more measured approach. For example, it’s possible that the Stay Home order or school closures could be lifted while the directive to stay six feet apart will stay in place. It will depend on what the key indicators tell us about the safety of relaxing the measures.

    For frequent updates on COVID-19, follow Public Health Insider or go to http://www.kingcounty.gov/covid.

    Originally posted on Public Health Insider, a publication of Public Health Seattle - King County on April 10, 2020.

Page last updated: 21 January 2022, 11:21