Emergency Manager's Report to City Council on COVID-19 (October 6, 2020)
Andrew Stevens, CEM - Emergency Manager -Eastside Fire & Rescue
Good evening Mayor, Council members, and City Manager.
Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to provide an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the nation, we are again seeing spikes in Coronavirus case numbers. Roughly one half of all US States are seeing increasing positive cases, including Washington. Overall, the United States now has more than 7.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began and claimed more than 210,000 lives. That number places COVID-19 as the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, trailing behind only heart disease and cancer. Another point to highlight is that last week, a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Health Association showed that the number of children infected with the virus nationally rose dramatically, more than 14% in the past two weeks alone, a surge that coincided with schools reopening.
After nearly two months of decline, King County has now seen nearly three straight increases in positive cases. As schools across the region reopened, and colder weather is driving more people inside, the county is experiencing more and more localized outbreaks. Locally, the City of Sammamish has seen 26 new positive cases in the last two weeks.
The point of all this is COVID-19 is still very much a present and ongoing threat. Since there have not been any recent, significant changes to the recommended COVID-19 mitigations in either the County or the State, then these increases are most likely tied to individual choices. As more and more people lower their guard against this virus, resume gathering in groups outside of their households, do not maintain social distancing with others, or fail to wear proper face coverings, these outbreaks will continue. I urge all residents to continue to stay the course and do everything in their power to eliminate their own personal risk. This may be especially hard as holidays approach, but it is critical that we continue to slow the spread of this virus. Since many traditional holiday activities, such as trick-or-treating, are considered high risk, I recommend everyone consider safer, alternative ways to celebrate. The City of Sammamish, for example, is hosting a virtual costume and pumpkin decorating contest. The CDC also recently posted guidance on holiday celebrations full of recommendations and ideas for alternative low-risk activities.
Since the onset of this crisis, Sammamish has taken a proactive approach to reducing risk and mitigating COVID-19 hazards. Months ago, a phased approach regarding the reopening of city programs and facilities was brought before this council, and while some jurisdictions in the region have decided to reduce their own restrictions, staff believe that this is premature and will only lead to unnecessary risk and additional exposures. This is why staff recommends the continued closure of public playgrounds, docks, beaches, and the skatepark until the County is in Phase 3. While this is certainly a policy decision that Council could reverse, staff’s recommendation would be to not loosen any current restrictions at the same time we are seeing nearly three straight weeks of increased COVID cases.
Lastly, following many disasters, those impacted usually see early support or assistance that quickly fades away. The response phase of most crises ends in the first 72 hours, and then transitions into short and long-term recovery, the latter of which can last for months or years. The difference between COVID-19 and other disasters is that we’re seven months into this crisis and we are still in the response phase. For months, talks on continued federal COVID-19 assistance have failed and just today they were ordered to be placed on hold until November. Provided that this pandemic will continue, and may worsen until significant advancements in medical interventions are developed, communities need to consider how they will continue their own response and recovery efforts for many more months to come.