Our COVID-19 response
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
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Even before Public Health Seattle & King County set up an emergency action center to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in late January, King County was preparing for the current pandemic. In the weeks since, we took unprecedented actions impacting every line of business throughout County government, and continue to mobilize a regional response to fight this disease. Together, we will get to the other side, and back to our normal routines as we focus on the great generational challenges of our time: building equity and opportunity, and confronting climate change.
Timeline of events
Cases: First confirmed U.S. case in Snohomish County. King County stood up Public Health Seattle & King County Health and Medical Area Command (HMAC).
Cases: First confirmed case in King County, a woman who traveled to South Korea
Cases: First COVID-19 death in King County, the first in the United States
State order: Gov. Inslee issued State of Emergency
King County completed a countywide assessment of shelters, day centers, encampments and supportive housing programs to identify resource gaps and needs in preparation for our regional homelessness response to COVID-19.
King County intensified search for available properties for isolation, quarantine & recovery (hospitals could quickly become over-loaded, concern about homeless population, need to slow the spread of the virus, protect the vulnerable)
Executive Constantine signed Proclamation of Emergency (enables “extraordinary measures,” including waiving some procurement protocols, and authorizing overtime for King County employees, among other powers)
"We have moved to a new stage in the fight to contain and mitigate this outbreak. King County is aligned and organized behind this common mission, with Public Health – Seattle & King County as our lead agency. We will direct all available resources to help cities, health-care facilities, businesses, and families continue life as normally as possible. But our best strategies depend on millions of residents actively following established disease prevention guidelines." -Executive Constantine
Metro’s Access paratransit enacted enhanced cleaning protocols
King County, Public Health-Seattle & King County and the City of Seattle convened the first of what continues to be weekly calls with over 200 shelter and homeless services providers, health care professionals, housing providers, city planners, coalitions, faith community members and more to present up-to-date information on COVID-19 and respond to questions from community members.
Metro activated its Department Operations Center
Executive Constantine directed Metro to increase the frequency of cleaning of buses. Previously, the agency cleaned and vacuumed each bus daily, and conducted four-hour deep cleans every 30 days. Metro began using a bleach solution to clean all high-touch surfaces on coaches such as buttons, handholds, pull cords, rails, and stanchions and to disinfect the transit operator’s work area. Metro also started disseminating kits for transit operators to disinfect their seat, steering wheel, and work area.
Metro maintenance staff began daily use of Virex spray in backpacks to apply stronger, more comprehensive disinfectant on high-touch areas on buses. Echoing the Executive’s press conference earlier in the day, Metro leadership recommends that higher risk employees stay home.
Cases: 70 cases and 11 deaths statewide, 51 cases and 10 deaths in King County
Metro announced it is postponing, canceling, or providing a virtual option for any Metro-led advisory group meetings, events, open houses, public meetings, and other gatherings throughout March.
Metro started offering alcohol-based hand sanitizer to frontline staff and rolling out disinfecting protocols training video.
King County offered the first of several web-based trainings on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines for Sanitation and Hygiene in Homeless Shelters and Day Centers to train and prepare staff working in those facilities countywide.
Metro added announcements aboard all coaches: “Welcome aboard. Metro buses are disinfected daily. Help keep yourself and others healthy. Don’t travel if you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your face. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Thank you for riding.”
Supply “store” located in a King County warehouse opened. King County, United Way of King County and Seattle pool their resources (bleach, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer) to keep homeless shelters and day centers countywide stocked with critical supplies. Bulk purchases continue to funnel in and out of this warehouse.
Kent Central Avenue isolation and quarantine site opened
Cases: 374 cases, 31 deaths statewide, including 235 cases, 27 deaths in King County. 23 deaths linked to Life Care Center in Kirkland.
Seattle, Lake Washington school districts closed for two weeks
State order: Schools in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties closed through April 24
Metro temporarily ceases fare enforcement inspections.
State order: Schools statewide closed till April 24/large events ban
King County International Airport provided 24/7 shelter space for 80 older adults to de-intensify one of the county’s largest shelters
King County Aquatic Center, all indoor Parks facilities closed. Sports field rentals canceled. Permitted events under 250 canceled unless organizers can meet Public Health criteria.
Metro announced first ridership decrease of 45% to fixed route bus service and released Public Health – Seattle and King County cards in English and Spanish on coaches.
Access paratransit and Community Access Transportation services begin deploying extra drivers and vehicles to area food banks and community centers to connect community members to needed nourishment.
Cases: 772 cases and 42 deaths statewide, 420 cases and 37 deaths in King County
“It is time, right now, for people to assume that they and everyone they meet is infected, to avoid any unnecessary interactions that might lead to further infection, and to wait and monitor to see if they have in fact been infected so that they can isolate and recover without presenting a risk to others. Go to work if you must. But hunker down if you are able. Postpone anything you can. Treat the next two weeks as a period of self-quarantine, to protect yourself and the lives and health of your loved ones and the entire community.” -Executive Constantine
Permitted events under 50 canceled unless organizers can meet Public Health criteria.
Metro shifts in-person customer service to telephone or web.
“With schools closed and people adapting to new work habits, our parks and open spaces can provide an important break in these stressful times. It is clear, however, that we must continue to be vigilant in these places as well, and make sure all our residents put into practice Public Health directives. Go for a hike. Take the family for a stroll. Kick a soccer ball around with your kids. But use good sense and avoid gatherings, team sports, pick-up games, and playground equipment.” -Executive Constantine
Metro assembled task forces charged with proposing solutions to respond to COVID-19. Task forces include Facilities and Conveyance Hygiene; Critical Resources, Logistics, & Procurement; and Service Network Modification (also includes a sub-group, Adherence to Public Health Guidance).
Metro discontinued fare collections, directs riders to board buses at rear doors in support of social distancing.
King County Regional Donations Connector launched online to link individuals, businesses, non-profits, and others who have resources with those who need them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
State order: Stay Home, two weeks
Metro enacted first Reduced Schedule to respond to decreased ridership and to preserve workforce.
King County set-up modular units in three locations: first patient in North Seattle/Aurora isolation and quarantine location
“We are working with every partner in the criminal justice system – courts, public defenders, prosecutors, corrections, and law enforcement – to maintain public safety and ensure the health and safety of everyone in our correctional facilities, including our employees who work on the front lines.” -Executive Constantine.
Cases: 2,580 cases and 132 deaths statewide; 1,359 cases and 100 deaths in King County
Stay Home: Nonessential businesses close statewide
Metro announced that bus ridership is down 62%. Reduced Schedule website is published in 13 languages
Metro introduced new safety strap on coaches and rail to support health of drivers and customers through social distancing.
Metro restored some service to promote social distancing on select high-demand routes.
Issaquah isolation and quarantine site opened.
Executive transmits emergency legislation to fund childcare services for first responders
Local recommendation: Staying apart and non-medical masks
Metro announced ridership has decreased 72% as people focus on essential travel.
State order: Stay Home extended till May 4 statewide
Isolation and quarantine staff received first admit via Metro’s Transportation for Pandemic Response program; 38 people currenting staying in isolation and quarantine sites
King County’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) announced they have reduced the number of people in custody by over 600 in recent weeks.
DAJD set up a website to provide the number COVID-19 tests and the daily population along with answers to frequently asked questions.
Cases: 200 deaths and 2,898 positive cases in King County.
Temporary sobering and recovery center opened at Recovery Café with 40 beds and 24/7 case management for people who need a safe place to sleep off intoxication and access recovery services
Top Hat Isolation and Quarantine Center ready to open when needed
Five pallets added to Chief Seattle Club’s Eagle Village to increase housing options for Native people experiencing homelessness.
46 people staying at isolation, quarantine and recovery sites
Metro enacted a new Reduced Schedule, with approximately 37% fewer buses, 30% fewer transit operators, and 19% fewer service trips than typical weekday service.
State order: Schools closed statewide through the 2019/2020 school year
Metro announced ridership has decreased 73%.
Public Health – Seattle & King County to distribute 20,000 COVID-19 test kits locally
King County joined with United Way of King County, Seattle Foundation and the City of Seattle to launch $5 million rental assistance fund to help low income individuals and families economically harmed by COVID-19
King County joined with health care unions to secure hotel for healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19
Harborview Hall isolation and recovery site opened with COVID-19 services for people who are homeless and have more intensive health needs
67 people staying in isolation, quarantine and recovery sites
Public Health – Seattle and King County posters appear on Metro coaches to encourage essential trips only and six feet of separation.
Metro began distributing cloth face masks to 4,100 frontline staff members with a second mask to follow.
Shoreline Assessment and Recovery Center opened with Kaiser Permanente providing 24/7 onsite health services.
66 people staying in isolation, quarantine and recovery centers
109% of all beds in King County hospitals were occupied (13.7% of adult acute care beds were COVID patients on 4/16)
Cases: 5,001 positive cases and 335 deaths in King County
Metro announced that ridership is down 70% and will enact further schedule reductions starting April 18.
Metro enacted further schedule reductions (27% fewer service trips than typical weekday service, 15% fewer trips on Saturdays and 4% fewer trips on Sundays) as ridership hovers around a decrease of 70%.
Metro redeployed Transit Security Officers for safety and social distancing support on specific Metro routes.
Cases: 112 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people living homeless or working in homeless services sites
74 people staying in isolation, quarantine and recovery centers
“We must do all we can to help our small businesses and arts and cultural organizations emerge from this crisis alive and well, ready to put thousands of people back to work and unite us through the recovery. Similarly, we need to help jump-start our hard-hit visitor industry, which supports thousands more jobs and is a vital part of our regional economy. By wisely leveraging lodging tax revenues we can accomplish these goals, and preserve some of what makes this region so special. I am also proposing to include funds for homeless youth, bolstering our work to help vulnerable teens reach adulthood healthy and ready to live full, productive lives.” - Executive Constantine
King County and Seattle coordinated free emergency childcare for essential workers.
Vanpools for just 2+ riders available for essential workers.
Metro instituted passenger limits for social distancing:12 on a 40-foot bus and 18 on a 60-foot bus.
King County moved about 100 people from shelter sites to hotels on Queen Anne in Seattle.
State order: Stay at Home order extended till May 31
Local data: New analysis shows COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting communities of color.
58 people staying in isolation, quarantine and recovery facilities
Metro added trips on high demand routes for essential workers and essential trips, plus seat signs to support social distancing.
EOC meets “Tier 1” (EMS, hospital, long-term care facilities) supply needs, starts to supply “Tier 2” group settings (isolation facilities, homeless shelters, and behavioral health residential facilities) with PPE, hand sanitizer and more
King County reopened parks and trails, residents asked to “Keep it Moving” and Recreate Responsibly
AC/RC in Shoreline operations on hold as a result of flattening the curve and having capacity at area hospitals and the isolation and quarantine sites
46 people staying in isolation and quarantine centers
Cases: 501 deaths and 7,187 positive COVID 19 test results
"This is a precarious time in our response to this virus. Our state is poised to loosen some social distancing restrictions, but only if the rate of infection continues to decline. For us to be able to confidently walk the path to greater normalcy, we must do everything possible to keep people safe and avoid a rebound in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
"We must ask people to take the steps, informed by public health, to once again change everyday life in service of the health of all. By doing this one thing – wearing a face covering in public settings – we can do more to protect our most vulnerable, and increase the odds that the limited resumption of activities will be successful." -Executive Constantine
Local recommendation: Testing recommended for anyone with mild COVID-19 symptoms
35 people staying in isolation and quarantine centers
Executive Constantine extended telecommuting to September 7 for Executive Branch employees.
No new cases of COVID-19 reported among people experiencing homelessness for the first time in a month.
King County Council approved report related to Renton Red Lion deintensification site, extending its lease agreement; report communicated the role isolation, quarantine, assessment/recovery and deintensification has played in preventing the spread of the virus and protecting the community.
State order: Inslee announced Stay Home order to expire May 31, transition to Safe Start four-phase plan to reopening county by county.
Metro ridership remained steady for essential trips during the pandemic at about 112,000 daily trips. Transit fares on Metro services will not be collected at least through the month of June.
84 people staying in King County isolation and quarantine
“The deep-seated racial bias woven through virtually every institution in our society will take an extraordinary, united, sustained toil to extract and destroy...We must keep trying, keep working. In King County we strive to be racially just. It’s one of our core values we work towards every day.” -Executive Constantine
King County approved for a modified Phase 1 of the Governor’s Safe Start plan: After nearly three months of stay-at-home orders and other guidelines targeted at slowing the spread of COVID-19, the gradual reopening of businesses, recreational opportunities and social activities is underway across King County.
Local recommendations: Vigilance must continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 as limited reopening begins: avoid extremes, get tested at first sign of symptoms, frequent handwashing, wear cloth face coverings in public, stay at least six feet from others, and avoid group gatherings
98 people staying in isolation and quarantine centers
Cases: 570 deaths and 8,536 positive COVID-19 test results
SCAN study approved to resume its free at-home testing program
48 people staying in isolation and quarantine; many from American Dynasty ship cleared to go home
King County applied for Phase 2 of WA’s Safe Start plan
Via to Transit pilot returned to southeast Seattle and Tukwila after temporarily suspending service in March due to COVID-19
“Moving to Phase 2 is another step toward economic recovery for our region, but it must go hand-in-hand with even more careful adherence to precautions from our public health experts. Wearing face coverings, washing hands, and avoiding crowds and unnecessary contact can help make ours a one-way trip back to prosperity, and prevent the need to go back to stay-at-home orders.”-Executive Constantine
State order: Mask mandate for Washington State goes into effect
New Safe Start King County website launched to help reopen the economy and activities safely
New data dashboard describes impacts of COVID-19 on individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
NAACP and Public Health Seattle – King County host free Mental Health Day to help Black communities impacted by intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and racism; DCHS Funds Mental Health Training at event
Report from state health officials warned that reopening schools in King County would not be safe unless transmission rates decreased.
Cases: 632 deaths and 11,825 positive COVID-19 test results
56 people staying in isolation and quarantine centers
King County school districts announced school to being with remote learning in fall. Public Health and Executive Constantine shared their support for schools' decisions to begin the school year with online learning. Superintendent Chris Reykdal released a statement on school district plans for reopening school fully online.
By the Numbers: COVID-19 in King County, as of July 24:
- 12,000+ confirmed cases in King County
- 1,700+ people hospitalized with severe illness
- 600+ lives lost before their time
- 10,000+ of our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones, are alive today as a result of quick, decisive action
- 700 people and families received a private, quiet, and secure place to stay and recover in King County’s isolation, quarantine and recovery centers
- And additional 700 people received a safe place to stay through the County’s de-intensification efforts
King County and regional public sector employers extended teleworking until 2021
State order: Gov. Inslee announced new requirements/limitations for restaurants, bars, taverns, weddings and funerals, and indoor fitness facilities in Phase 2.
New COVID Health Ambassador Program launched
State announced new framework to guide counties in reopening schools. King County is one of 25 counties in the "High Risk" category where virtual learning is recommended.
44 people staying in isolation and quarantine centers
Cases: 663 deaths and 16,138 positive COVID-19 test results
“We must do everything possible to help our small businesses and arts and cultural organizations emerge from the crisis alive, well, and ready to put thousands of people back to work. By carefully and thoughtfully helping with rent, payroll and other expenses, we can help ensure that more of our cultural touchstones survive and continue to contribute to the vitality of our region.” -Executive Constantine.
Health centers to open on 34 school campuses in King County to provide health services even when the instruction is online.
COVID Activity: 50 cases per 100,000 residents, 80 new daily cases
COVID-19 Child Care Support offered for families impacted by COVID and essential workers.
King County Balanced You partnered with Mindfulness Northwest to continue offering monthly mindfulness classes specifically for employees responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID Activity: 90 per 100,000 residents, 143 new cases daily
King County Elections Mailed Nearly 1.4 Million Ballots for the General Election—encouraged early voting by mail
Cases of COVID-19 on the rise again in King County, after two months of decline.
Public Health addressed COVID-19 outbreak associated with the UW Greek system.
In partnership with Vivecorp, King County began offering free, live, virtual exercise classes for county employees.
King County Roads Services Division received the Public Employer of the Year Award for its dedication and support of Matt Everson, an employee in King County’s Supported Employment Program during the COVID pandemic and transition to remote work.
King County Elections opened six Vote Center locations that allowed for social distancing and provided masks to those who needed one. Election staff wore gloves, masks and face shields.
COVID Activity: 148 per 100,000 residents and 246 new daily cases
COVID Activity: 257 per 100,000 residents and 409 new daily cases. 91% of beds in King County hospitals occupied.
More than 500 King County nurses issued urgent call to confront COVID surge.
State order: New statewide restrictions in place till 12/14 – no indoor gatherings, dining or fitness. State and local health officials urged residents to avoid Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings. (restrictions extended to 1/4 and 1/11)
Executive Constantine statement on updated COVID-19 restrictions
"The number of hospitalizations in King County last week increased by over 70 percent compared to the previous four weeks. There are twice as many people in local hospitals with COVID-19 as there were just a month ago. This is the most critical issue: We have to reverse this trend before our hospitals become overwhelmed."-Executive Constantine
“Neighborhoods in south King County continue to experience the highest positivity rates in the region, and we must do everything possible to reverse the current trend of record-breaking case counts before our essential workers – including doctors and nurses – can no longer perform their duties." - Executive Constantine.
“Keep it local King County” campaign launched to support regional small businesses; $4 million in grants and technical assistance awarded to approximately 630 small businesses in unincorporated King County.
While I am heartened that so many have done so much to help us respond to this unprecedented crisis, I also appreciate the burden on and anxiety felt by many restaurants, retailers, arts organizations and their employees. I am thankful we were able to get financial help to hundreds of small businesses, but we must do more. I urge everyone to patronize restaurants, coffee shops, and other local favorites. As I have said before: If this pandemic is symbolized by the medical mask, let our resilience be represented by the take-out box. Our ‘Keep it local campaign’ over the next few weeks will highlight all that you can do to help our local economy, and enrich your health and well-being.” -Executive Constantine
COVID Activity: 380 cases per 100,000 residents – more than five times what it was in early October.
New report on outbreaks and exposure settings from Public Health found the most common reported sources of exposure in recent weeks are in households, in a variety of community or social activities and gatherings, and in workplaces.
COVID Activity: 443 cases per 100,000 residents, 705 new daily cases
Metro debuted its Rider Dashboard with data on ridership, mask use, trips that exceed passenger capacity limits and bus stop pass-ups.
First doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in King County. Initial doses received by Public Health offered to paramedics and emergency medical technicians to be deployed to vaccinate others.
State recommendation: New data and rules for in-person learning encouraged districts where new COVID-19 cases average less than 350 per 100,000 people to start reopening elementary schools.
COVID Activity: 259 cases per 100,000 residents and 412 new daily cases
The COVID Health Ambassador program distributed an average of 30,000 masks a week for individuals and families since August.
State order: Inslee announces new state reopening plan – Healthy Washington.
“King County will step up and organize community vaccination centers and mobile teams to make sure we hit the ground running as more and more people become eligible to receive doses. To get this pandemic under control, 16,000 adults must be vaccinated every day for six months. That’s why we need everyone behind this effort. We are moving ahead now despite the lack of clarity on supply chain or federal funding allocation because every day delayed impacts the lives of our residents, the strength of our community, and the vitality of our businesses.”-Executive Constantine
King County Office of Equity and Social Justice’s Anti-Hate and Bias Response Fund and the Coalition Against Hate & Bias shared art from the community that speaks to the impacts of COVID-19 and racism.
King County entered Phase 1 of the state’s new Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan; most of the Governor’s current restrictions remain with some expanded fitness and entertainment allowed.
By the Numbers: COVID-19 in King County, one year after the first U.S. case was reported and we stood up HMAC:
- 72,924 confirmed cases in King County
- 4,643 people hospitalized with severe illness
- 1,198 lives lost before their time
- 1,521,331 total tests administered / 801,482 people tested in King County
COVID Activity: 328 cases per 100,000 residents