Emergency Manager's Report to City Council on COVID-19 | June 15, 2021

Good evening Mayor Moran, Councilmembers, and City Manager.

I wanted to take this evening to reflect upon the City of Sammamish’s response to Covid-19 over the past year and a half and highlight many of the successes of those citywide efforts.

Last February, roughly two weeks into new City management, the City of Sammamish began executing what would be its greatest exercise in the continuity of operations. Facing a never-before-seen deadly threat, and regulations and public health orders that seemed to change or evolve daily, City departments and divisions quickly came together to develop strategies and tactics that ensured that 100% of the City’s essential government functions were maintained without disruption. I would like to highlight just how rare that is. You have to remember that the U.S.’s response to COVID-19 began just north of Sammamish, and I would say that most jurisdictions in the area were directly impacted by the virus as outbreaks spread throughout their workplaces. However, due to the expedient nature of Sammamish’s response, the flexibility and competence of its staff and leadership, Sammamish was able to quickly enact workplace protections, enhance social distancing and environmental hygiene protocols, and develop a robust telework program that not only ensured that continuity of operations was maintained, but more importantly, not a single instance of workplace COVID-19 exposure was reported. The countless hours and effort put forth by every Sammamish employee to strengthen and ensure the city’s resiliency while facing this new and extremely dangerous threat should most definitely be celebrated by this council.

While continuing the day-to-day work of city governance, Sammamish also took on the responsibility of developing and managing community recovery programs. Staff worked directly with the WA Department of Commerce and Treasury to ensure that Federal Cares Act monies were spent efficiently and in a manner that would ensure the full reimbursable amount was achieved. It would also streamline the reporting requirements and provided the city with the flexibility to continue providing COVID-19 relief even after the federal timeline for spending CARES act funding had expired. Through these efforts, the City provided several rounds of small business and non-profit grants, greatly assisting those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cascading consequences of state and county mandated restrictions. You may remember, that when the city developed its strategy for how its CARES Act funding would be spent, the WA Commerce Deputy Assistant Director, described it as one of the more intelligent ways he had seen a jurisdiction utilize the funding. I was not planning on providing a detailed report on any remaining funds this evening since I believe that you have an upcoming agenda item that further discusses any remaining CARES Act reimbursements and ARPA funding.

The residents of Sammamish also overwhelmingly came together and adhered to the COVID-19 restrictions and mitigations. Over the past 15 months, Sammamish’s record for positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the virus were always some of the lowest per capita in the county. The vast majority of residents sought to comply with COVID-19 mitigations such as mask mandates and social distancing. They supported local businesses and restaurants through a variety of delivery options and by purchasing gift cards and donated to non-profits assisting in COVID-19 relief. While 14 Sammamish residents lost their lives to the disease, that number is a fraction compared to neighboring jurisdictions in the region. Without the whole community approach to combating and slowing the spread of the virus taken by most those numbers surely would have been higher.

The will of Sammamish’s residents to overcome this pandemic and contribute to the greater public health good could not be made more evident by the vaccination rates seen across our community. While 70% of the population being vaccinated against COVID-19 has been seen as the benchmark for the nation and most communities, the majority of the City of Sammamish is sitting far above that figure. Over 95% of all residents aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and roughly 85% of the same population has completed their entire series. This is a remarkable achievement that Sammamish residents should be extremely proud of.

A strategic partnership consisting of the cities of Sammamish and Issaquah, the Snoqualmie Tribe, and Eastside Fire & Rescue undoubtedly contributed to the extremely high vaccination rates not only of Sammamish but of communities throughout the eastside.

Saturday marked the final day of vaccine operations of the Snoqualmie Tribe Vaccine Partnership, a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site located at Lake Sammamish State Park. Since April 8th, we delivered over 15,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to populations primarily residing here in the Eastside. Seeing where the patients came from, and the equity in which these operations were conducted was extremely validating and goes to show everyone that all the hard work that went into to establishing a mass vaccination site on the Eastside was well worth the effort.

Along with the drive-through operations at Lake Sammamish, Eastside Fire & Rescue personnel delivered nearly 6800 vaccines at the Snoqualmie Casino and roughly another 1000 doses through our Mobile Vaccination Teams, targeting the most vulnerable populations in our service area. EFR conducted pop-up clinics are cultural centers, faith-based facilities, pedestrian shopping centers, and HOAs in both Issaquah and Sammamish. EFR personnel also assisted our local school districts with their vaccination efforts, serving as the post-vaccination medical observers for thousands of school-aged children. We worked with human services personnel to identify and schedule vaccination appointments for vulnerable populations and individuals who may have otherwise had difficulties navigating the traditional public health system and communications staff to help get the word out and share useful information on vaccine-related efforts. We also partnered with the business community to provide incentives and take-aways to our patients post-vaccination.

For the past several months, dozens of EFR Firefighters contributed to the various vaccine operations that were simultaneously underway, working long days, and sometimes evenings, beyond their traditional shift work. Besides our staff, over 200 volunteers from eastside communities stepped up and contributed nearly 4,200 hours of their time to assist at the Lake Sammamish site, filling all the non-medical roles and responsibilities rain or shine.

I want to personally thank everyone who was involved in supporting or contributing to these critical vaccine operations. It is a great feeling to know that while many would have been content to let others step up and fight this pandemic, we were not. From early on, all the partners involved rose to the challenge and proactively found solutions where others may have found dead ends.

COVID-19 has been the greatest disaster of any of our lifetimes, with over 600,000 fatalities here in the U.S. alone, and 3.8 million deaths worldwide. And while this pandemic is nowhere near over, I do believe that we have most definitely reached a turning point where we no longer have to fear that things may once again turn drastically for the worse. We are beginning to see states lift COVID-19 restrictions, and it is widely expected that Washington with soon follow with reopening the state. This is welcome news and relief to many, who for the past 15 months have desperately sought for a return to normalcy. I do however urge caution and I request that we all remain vigilant and respectful to those populations who cannot yet be vaccinated. I hope that during this crisis my updates provided both you and the residents listening with useful information, and I would be happy to come back as needed if the situation warrants any additional updates.

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

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

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