Emergency Manager's Report to City Council on COVID-19 (December 15, 2020)

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

Good evening Mayor, Council members, and City Manager.

Nearly 10 months ago, when I first came before this council to present upon the first cases of Coronavirus to reach the U.S. in our neighboring community Kirkland, I do not believe that many of us would have foreseen what would come through the remainder of 2020. Over 300,000 Americans have died as a result of this pandemic, and the past month has brought us several of the worst single-day fatality counts in modern history, including a single-day record of over 3000 COVID-19 deaths just last week. Across the nation, cases continue to exponentially climb, as current mitigations struggle against the runaway community spread, and in some areas of the County non-compliance with public health recommendations appear to be more of the norm versus the exception.

The reality that the current state of the pandemic is at its worse point since it began is a hard pill to swallow, but recent advancements in the fight against COVID-19 will hopefully begin to turn the tide in the next few months. Across the nation, the first COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered and provided to front-line medical workers and those populations most vulnerable to severe illness and death from the virus. With additional vaccines seeking FDA authorization for emergency use, and a robust logistical network being stood up to begin widely distributing the vaccine, authorities are predicting that the US could see widespread herd immunity by the summer of 2021. While it is fantastic news that we now appear to have effective and safe vaccines available that protect from the coronavirus, it is so very important to understand that without widespread compliance with all other public health recommendations, especially during the widespread outbreak the US is currently experiencing, many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, may die until herd immunity is achieved.

Another change that will come as a relief to Sammamish residents was the addition of a free, high-capacity COVID testing site in Bellevue, the first such location on the Eastside. The drive-through Bellevue site will be open Monday through Saturday, from 9 to 5, and appointments are recommended, but not required. I would like to remind everyone that these testing sites are for those who have symptoms and need a COVID-19 test. They are not to be used to confirm COVID negativity so that one may socialize over the holidays.

A few weeks ago, the City released a COVID-19 Impact Survey to provide insight into the needs of our residents which may not have been overly visible due to the nature of this incident. The survey has seen remarkable participation, with over 1000 responses so far. The results provide key insight into the needs of the community, and how the City Council may elect to address those needs through additional funding or support. Here are a few important takeaways:

  • 6.8% of respondents were recently unemployed due to COVID – some of which left their jobs to assist their families at home.
  • 3.5% of respondents claim to be experiencing extreme financial stress
  • The greatest concerns of the respondents were becoming infected with COVID-19, the overall safety of the community, helping children with school, access to childcare, and access to medical and mental health services.
  • There were 12 residents very concerned about housing continuity and 13 very concerned about access to food.

The survey was distributed to the community through a variety of means, including the City’s newsletter, social media, and a postcard mailed to every household. The model has been shared in the region and neighboring jurisdictions are already beginning to roll-out similar needs assessments. The plan is to continue accepting responses until the end of the month to provide residents with additional opportunities to participate. I have been meeting with my colleagues in the City to discuss the results of the survey, and I believe that Sammamish’s Human Services Coordinator will be addressing the Council following my report to provide greater insight into the current organizational needs of non-profits providing assistance. The Council will be addressing the second round of business and non-profit grants later this evening. To assist in those discussions, I wanted to provide a quick update concerning the incident expenses so far. To date, the City has spent roughly $1.1 million of the $2.9 million earmarked for COVID-19 response and recovery, $420K of which went to small business grants in the previous round of funding, and $315K which has gone to support human service organizations.

Lastly, I would like to thank the residents of Sammamish for their continued resiliency in the face of this pandemic. This community has rallied together to support one another throughout this entire event and continues to do so. The pandemic has affected us all in countless ways, and as the winter months and holiday seasons are now upon us, social isolation will become more and more emotionally and mentally taxing. If you are in need of services or are seeking information on how to connect to the various organizations assisting those impacted by this crisis, please do not hesitate to reach out to the City for support.

I wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday and new year. Thank you.

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