Emergency Manager's Report to City Council on COVID-19 (December 1, 2020)

Andrew Stevens, CEM - Emergency Manager - Eastside Fire & Rescue

Good evening Mayor, Councilmembers, and City Manager.

As someone who has been immersed in COVID-19 response and recovery since February, it was extremely disheartening to see millions of US residents, during the worst COVID surge yet, travel and gather together over the past holiday weekend. While this was frustrating to me, I can only imagine how the frontline medical workers, who have been pushed to the brink fighting this virus, must have felt to see so many ignore the warnings from public health officials to limit contact and to not travel.

November was a tough month for the U.S.’s pandemic response. By all expectations, December will be worse. The United States reported more than 4 million coronavirus cases in November, which is higher than the total number of cases seen all year by any country in the world except India and Brazil. Public health experts are warning that we will keep seeing record-breaking numbers in the final month of 2020. The nation surpassed 100,000 daily cases for the first time on November 4, and then more than 200,000 daily cases for the first time on November 28. Over the last weekend, the U.S. also surpassed 90,000 coronavirus hospitalizations for the first time ever. The county now sits at roughly 13.7 million cases, up 2.4 million in the past two weeks, and roughly 270,000 deaths.

The State of Washington, King County, and Sammamish all saw massive increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations through November. And while the surge may appear to be decreasing, the data from the past several days is incomplete, many testing centers were temporarily closed over the holiday weekend, and the data does not yet reflect the number of individuals exposed at holiday gatherings but are not yet symptomatic. With an incubation period of up to two weeks, public health officials are expecting even greater increases in cases through the next two weeks. The City of Sammamish has now seen 555 cases of COVID-19, up 213 from Nov 1st. A 62% increase in total cases in the last month alone.

Sammamish residents have been feeling the impacts of COVID for nearly 10 months now and are two weeks into additional restrictions that will last until mid-December or longer. To help guide the City Council on how they may elect its continuing community support, staff released a COVID-19 Impact survey to gauge and identify the needs of those affected by both COVID and the COVID mitigation measures. So far, 367 residents have completed the assessment. Some of the key take takeaways include:

  • 9.5% of respondents stated that they are recently unemployed due to COVID
  • 15% of respondents are experiencing extreme or high levels of financial-related stress
  • 20 respondents were very concerned with their continued ability to pay for housing
  • 74 respondents were very concerned about their mental health and wellness
  • Of all the various concerns we rated, 73% began with the COVID pandemic, roughly 12% are due to the recent statewide restrictions

Wanting to capture an even larger response pool, and in an effort to reach more vulnerable populations, the City is also mailing postcards promoting the survey to each household in the City. We are encouraged by the early participation in the survey and hope that residents will continue to participate.

To date, the City of Sammamish has spent roughly $1,080,000 on its COVID-19 response and recovery operations, leaving roughly $1.8 million in funding earmarked for continued COVID-19 response. The survey, in combination with feedback provided by the City’s Human Services Coordinator, provides insight into where additional support is needed. It is my understanding that the Council is looking to release the second round of business grants at its next regular meeting. It would be my recommendation to also review and decide upon parameters for additional support to human service organizations serving those impacted soon. Depending on whether certain federal programs expire in late December will weigh considerably on the amount and type of assistance that may be needed.

As I am sure you are aware, there is not yet an authorized or approved vaccine for COVID-19, however, there are multiple vaccines under development that are providing promising results. Even if a vaccine is approved for emergency distribution, it will not be widely available for many months. The first supplies of the vaccine will be limited and given first to specific groups at highest risk, such as healthcare workers and people in nursing homes.

The State of Washington and King County Public Health have been working to establish plans, procedures, and the logistical systems needed for eventual vaccine distribution. When the vaccine is widely available, healthcare clinics, pharmacies, and drive-through and walk-through clinics will most likely provide vaccinations. In the meantime, it is important that everyone continues to practice all other COVID-19 mitigations, as it will be several more months until there is widespread vaccination across all populations.

Lastly, I would like to urge all residents listening to download and utilize the new COVID-19 exposure tool, WA Notify, on their smartphones. This tool utilizes anonymous data to alert you if you were in the presence of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. It is safe, secure, and will greatly assist in contact tracing abilities that previously would not have existed. It’s just one more tool in our toolbox to help slow the spread of this virus.

Thank you.

If you have not already taken the Sammamish Community Assessment Survey, please access it here: https://connect.sammamish.us/covid-19-updates/survey_tools/community-survey

Read more about WA Notify here: https://connect.sammamish.us/covid-19-updates/news_feed/inslee-announces-statewide-covid-19-exposure-notification-tool

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