Emergency Manager's Report to City Council on COVID-19 (January 5, 2021)

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

Good evening Mayor, Council members, and City Manager.

Across the nation, states are beginning to experience the expected surge of COVID-19 cases resulting from the holiday gatherings of late December. Even though the U.S. was leading the world in both cases and fatalities, over 18 million individuals still elected to travel, including a record 1.3 million people screened by TSA this past Sunday alone. Many states’ public health systems are being pushed to the brink of collapse, ICUs are filled beyond capacity, and ambulance services are having to wait sometimes hours before they can transfer patients. In Los Angeles, for example, the medical care systems are currently so overwhelmed that officials have instructed paramedics and EMTs to no longer transport critically injured or sick individuals to hospitals if they first cannot be resuscitated in the field.

The U.S. is averaging over 215,000 new cases and nearly 2,700 COVID-19 deaths each day, or 1 death every 32 seconds. That means since I have begun talking 3 individuals have died from COVID-19 in America. The U.S. has seen roughly 21 million cases of COVID, or roughly 1 in every 15 Americans, and a staggering 356,000 fatalities. There are even some studies estimating that the actual number of cases in the U.S. be more than four times higher than what is being reported. Locally, King County has seen nearly 65,000 cases and Sammamish is now registering 804.

Two vaccines to prevent Covid-19 infections have now been granted authorization for emergency use, and every day thousands more people are becoming vaccinated. The CDC is reporting that more than 4.8 million initial doses of the two Covid-19 vaccines have been administered so far, and while that is far fewer than what was expected to have been administered at this point in time, it is presumed that the number of vaccinations provided will rapidly increase as the logistical networks improve. So far, however, only 35,000 King County residents have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Given that it will most likely be well into 2021, or later until herd immunity by vaccination is achieved, I am highly supportive of staff’s decision today to cancel all large city-run events through July.

The City’s closed its community-wide COVID-19 Impact Survey with the new year with 1454 individual responses, over half of which were a result of the informational postcards mailed to every household in the City. 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:

  • 6.4% of respondents were recently unemployed due to COVID – some of who left their jobs to assist their families at home.
  • 3% of respondents claim to be experiencing extreme financial stress
  • 48 respondents were very concerned about their continued ability to pay for housing
  • 113 respondents were very concerned with their continuity of employment
  • Nearly 600 respondents were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about access to mental health services.

The results of the survey highlight what we may have expected, that although the majority of the City’s residents appear to be weathering the COVID-19 storm, there most definitely are portions of the population in need of continued assistance. While the federal government finally approved additional assistance to both individuals and businesses, and additional State programs have been rolled out or extended, there are most likely gaps where the City government can step up to fill.

Regarding CARES Act funding that was specifically earmarked for COVID-19 response and recovery expenses, the City has spent roughly $1.9 million of the $2.9 million that was reimbursed to the City. That includes roughly $155K on emergency protective measures and internal COVID-19 expenses, $215K on I.T. expenses necessary to ensure continuity of government, $1,211,000 in two rounds of small business and non-profit grants, and $315K to support human service organizations assisting those impacted. A full breakdown of those expenses was provided to Council earlier today.

With that, I would be happy to address any questions you may have. Thank you.

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