Emergency Manager's Report to City Council on COVID-19 (November 17, 2020)

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

Good evening Mayor, Council members, and City Manager.

Thank you for inviting me to speak again tonight and to provide an update on COVID-19. It has become obvious that the United States is in the midst of the worst surge of viral outbreaks since this pandemic began. The Country is now registering roughly 11,330,000 cases of COVID, and it’s only been a week since the milestone of 10 million was surpassed. We are averaging over 160,000 new cases a day and are expected to average more than 200,000 per day in the near future. Hospitalizations are also seeing record level increases. Yesterday, nearly 74,000 people were hospitalized due to COVID, more than was ever seen in prior surges. The U.S. is also averaging over 1,000 new deaths a day, with nearly a quarter-million lives lost so far.

The State of Washington, King County, and Sammamish have not been immune from this current surge either. Washington is seeing upwards of 2,000 new cases a day, with hospitalizations and deaths increasing. King County’s case volume is far exceeding anything previously experienced in the Spring and Summer surges, with daily positive case county more than triple previous records. Sammamish is averaging 6.5 new cases a day, and up to 426 cases so far.

King County COVID-19 Positive Cases

Due to the dramatic increase in statewide cases, Governor Inslee announced Sunday new temporary restrictions that went into effect statewide yesterday until December 14. The new restrictions include:

  • Restrictions on all indoor social gatherings unless strict quarantine measures have been followed
  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than 5 people who do not live with you.
  • Restaurants and bars are closed for indoor service. Outdoor and take-out dining must still adhere to strict guidelines to ensure safety.
  • New restrictions on religious services, including limiting services to 25%, no choir, band, or congressional singing allowed.
  • Fitness Facilities and Gyms will be required to close indoor operations
  • Retail businesses will be limited to 25% of capacity and must close any congregate areas.

It is widely understood that these new statewide restrictions will impact many. It will have real-life consequences for both businesses and employees, with cascading financial repercussions to families and communities.

While heightened restrictions are most likely necessary to combat the ever-increasing community spread of COVID-19, it is troubling that such restrictions can be mandated without a plan to financially support those they impact. Continued State or County assistance funding appears to be limited and there are no expectations of additional COVID-19 assistance being provided by the federal government anytime soon.

Sammamish, however, through the strategic utilization of its CARES Act funding is in a stronger position than most to assist its impacted residents. As you are aware, expenses incurred by local governments needed to be incurred no later than November 30th in order to be eligible for CARES Act reimbursement. The City of Sammamish, however, dedicated the entirety of their CARES Act award to the eligible expenses of public safety payroll. Staff then recommended, and Council approved, to dedicate that entire reimbursement to continued COVID-19 response and recovery. The current surge of COVID-19 cases and newly enacted statewide restrictions are the exact scenarios that the City’s use of CARES Act funding was designed for. I am unaware of any jurisdiction that is in a stronger position to provide continued assistance beyond CARES Act deadlines, without dipping into operational budgets, contingency funds, or receiving additional State or Federal support.

To date, the City of Sammamish has spent roughly $1,072,000 on its COVID-19 response and recovery operations.

  • $216K to ensure continuity of government
  • Roughly $12K in personnel overtime
  • $109K in emergency protective measures
  • $420K in small business grants – which includes $98K in pass-through CARES Act funding from King County
  • $315K in non-profit/human services grants

Currently, the City is accepting applications for a second round of small business and non-profit COVID-19 support grants which I believe you will be discussing later this evening. Depending on how much funding is allocated in this second round of grants, the City has considerable resources to support a multitude of programs that will assist those impacted by this crisis. Perhaps an assessment of the current eligibility criteria for City-provided business grants is necessary to ensure that those businesses affected by the new restrictions can receive assistance.

Staff has been working to identify current and expected impacts on residents and turn them into actionable intelligence. I have recently spoken with the City’s Human Services Coordinator and requested an assessment of the need for immediate and continued financial support to non-profits assisting those residents impacted by COVID or COVID restrictions. The City’s Communication team and I have also been working to develop a community impact survey, that will be widely distributed to Sammamish residents. In traditional disasters, who is impacted and who needs assistance can be quite apparent. With COVID, those impacts are not always so visible. The survey we are designing is meant to identify what impacts our residents are experiencing and at what magnitude. This survey will be distributed widely, in multiple languages, and the information gained will provide greater situational awareness to the needs of the community.

Lastly, I think we all recognize the impacts that COVID-19 has had on this nation. Unfortunately, even with all the science and information on what we all needed to do to combat this outbreak, many chose to ignore the warning signs. We are now forced into a position to again restrict businesses, activities, and that is going to affect a lot of people, many of which have been complying with COVID-19 mitigations this entire time. I want everyone to recognize that what you do, who you connect with, and what public health recommendations you may choose to ignore, has far more downstream consequences than you can possibly imagine. In high confidence, I would assume that the majority of Sammamish’s residents want what is best for their community. No one wants to see a small business shut down, or a family struggle to pay bills. No one wants schools to remain closed, or family holiday gathering to be canceled. Everyone’s top priority then should be doing everything in their power to keep themselves, their family, and their community safe. Don’t be the person who holds the dinner party that gets someone sick. Don’t be the person who refuses to wear a mask correctly and gets an essential worker sick. Don’t be the person online looking for playdate companions for your children. Stop cutting corners, a quarter-million Americans are dead, 8 of which lived here in Sammamish. If everyone committed to the objective of ending this pandemic months ago, we would not be in the situation we are in now as a nation. I urge everyone to see this not as a personal choice, but a personal responsibility and commitment to the safety and resilience of your community.

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