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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

Jan. 21:

Cases: First confirmed US case in Snohomish County, stood up Public Health Seattle & King County Health and Medical Area Command (HMAC ) 

Feb. 27:

Cases: First confirmed case in King County, a woman who traveled to South Korea  

Feb 29:

Cases: First COVID-19 death in King County, the first in the United States

Local order: Dow Constantine activated King County Emergency Operations Center   

State order: Gov. Inslee issued State of Emergency  

Late Feb-ongoing: 

Local action: 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.  

Local action: 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)   

March 1:

Local order: Dow 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 enacts enhanced cleaning protocols  

March 2:

Local action: 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 activates its Department Operations Center  

March 3:

Cases: 21 cases and 8 deaths in King County   

Executive Constantine directs 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.  

March 4:

Local action: King County bought hotel in Kent to quarantine COVID patients   

Local recommendations: Pregnant people and people over 60 with underlying health conditions avoid crowds; everyone who can work from home do so, postpone events and large gatherings in general   

Metro maintenance staff begins 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.  

March 5:

Cases: 70 cases and 11 deaths statewide, 51 cases and 10 deaths in King County

Local recommendations: At-risk or any individual who is currently sick, refrain from attending sporting events, games or matches   

Metro announces 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 starts offering alcohol-based hand sanitizer to frontline staff and rolling out disinfecting protocols training video.  

March 6:

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.   

March 7:

Metro adds 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.”  

March 8:

Local action: In collaboration with the City of Bellevue, created 80 spaces to de-intensify the Eastside’s largest shelter site   

March 10:

Local recommendation: Public Health stresses importance of social distancing as cases increase   

Local action: Supply “store” located in a King County warehouse opens. 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.   

Local action: Kent Central Avenue isolation and quarantine site opened  

March 11:

Cases: 374 cases, 31 deaths statewide, including 235 cases, 27 deaths in King County. 23 deaths linked to Life Care Center in Kirkland.  

Local orders: Seattle, Lake Washington school districts closed for two weeks  

State and local order: Large events over 250 in King/Snohomish & Pierce counties   

March 12:

State order: Schools in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties closed through April 24  

Metro temporarily ceases fare enforcement inspections.  

March 13:

State order: Schools statewide closed till April 24/large events ban  

Local action: 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 closes. Sports field rentals canceled. Permitted events under 250 canceled unless organizers can meet Public Health criteria.   

Metro announces first ridership decrease of 45% to fixed route bus service, and releases 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.   

March 15:

Cases: 772 cases and 42 deaths statewide, 420 cases and 37 deaths in King County  

Local order: No gatherings over 50, restaurants/bars/clubs/theaters/fitness clubs; social distancing advised 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

March 16:

State order: No gatherings over 50, restaurants/bars/clubs/theaters/fitness clubs; social distancing advised    

Permitted events under 50 canceled unless organizers can meet Public Health criteria.  

March 18:

Metro shifts in-person customer service to telephone or web.  

March 20:

Cases: 793 cases and 63 deaths in King County   

Local order: King County and Seattle close playgrounds, parks, courts; social distancing advised on trails   

"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 assembles 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).  

March 21:

Metro discontinues fare collections, directs riders to board buses at rear doors in support of social distancing.  

King County Regional Donations Connector launches online to link individuals, businesses, non-profits, and others who have resources with those who need them during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

March 23:

State order: Stay Home, two weeks   

Metro enacts first Reduced Schedule to respond to decreased ridership and to preserve workforce.   

March 24:

Local action: King County set-up modular units in three locations: first patient in North Seattle/Aurora isolation and quarantine location   

Local order: Dow took actions to provide single bunks for everyone in custody   

"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.  

March 25:

Cases: 2,580 cases and 132 deaths statewide; 1,359 cases and 100 deaths in King County  

Stay Home: Nonessential businesses close statewide  

Local update: New King County data dashboard, Stay Together Stay Apart campaign   

Local action: King County and Seattle expand emergency shelter and housing response   

Metro announces that bus ridership is down 62%. Reduced Schedule website is published in 13 languages  

March 26:

Metro introduces new safety strap on coaches and rail to support health of drivers and customers through social distancing.  

March 28:

Metro restores some service to promote social distancing on select high-demand routes.  

March 29:

Local action: Issaquah isolation and quarantine site opens  

Local order: Mandatory to follow isolation protocols at home or at a recovery facility   

Stay Home: Order and social distancing is helping and must continue   

March 31:

Local action: Executive transmits emergency legislation to fund child care services for first responders 

April 1:  

Local recommendation: Staying apart and non-medical masks   

Metro announces ridership has decreased 72% as people focus on essential travel.  

April 2:

Local action: King County reduced shelter concentrations by moving nearly 400 people to hotels   

State order: Stay Home extended till May 4 statewide  

April 3:

Isolation and quarantine staff receive 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 confirmed deaths and 2,898 confirmed positive cases in King County.

April 6:

Local action: Temporary sobering and recovery center opens 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  

Local action: Top Hat Isolation and Quarantine Center ready to open when needed  

Local action: 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 enacts 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

April 8:

Metro announces ridership has decreased 73%.  

April 9:

Public Health – Seattle & King County to distribute 20,000 COVID-19 test kits locally

April 10:

Local action: King County joins 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  

Local action: King County joins with health care unions to secure hotel for healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19  

Local action: Harborview Hall isolation and recovery site opens with COVID-19 services for people who are homeless and have more intensive health needs   

67 people staying in isolation, quarantine and recovery sites

April 11:

Public Health – Seattle and King County posters appear on Metro coaches to encourage essential trips only and six feet of separation.  

Metro begins distributing cloth face masks to 4,100 frontline staff members with a second mask to follow.

April 12:

Local action: Shoreline Assessment and Recovery Center opens with Kaiser Permanente providing 24/7 onsite health services.  

66 people staying in isolation, quarantine and recovery centers

April 15:

Cases: 5,001 positive cases and 335 deaths in King County

April 16:

Metro announces that ridership is down 70% and will enact further schedule reductions starting April 18.   

April 18:

Metro enacts 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%.   

April 20:

Metro redeploys 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

April 22:

74 people staying in isolation, quarantine and recovery centers

April 23: 

Local action: Executive Constantine announces supplemental budget to continue COVID-19 response, help small businesses, arts and tourism; fund homeless youth programs.

"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 

April 24:

King County and Seattle coordinate free emergency child care for essential workers.

April 27:

Local data: A new report shows the decrease in COVID-19 transmission in King County has slowed.

Vanpools for just 2+ riders now available for essential workers. 

Metro institutes passenger limits for social distancing:12 on a 40-foot bus and 18 on a 60-foot bus.

April 29:

Local action: King County moves about 100 people from shelter sites to hotels on Queen Anne in Seattle.

May 1:

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

May 4:

Metro adds trips on high demand routes for essential workers and essential trips, plus seat signs to support social distancing.

May 6:

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

May 8:

King County reopens 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

Local data: Latest data shows COVID-19 transmission rate could be rising in King County

May 9:

Cases: 501 deaths and 7,187 positive COVID 19 test results

May 11:

Local action: Directive strongly urges face coverings in all indoor public places, as well as outside settings where maintaining six feet of social distancing is difficult.

"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

May 12:

King County Council approves $60M for continued COVID-19 response

May 13:

Local recommendation: Testing recommended for anyone with mild COVID-19 symptoms

35 people staying in isolation and quarantine centers

May 14:

Elliott Avenue modular pilot project announced to offer shelter beds and services to fight COVID-19.

May 18:

Face covering directive goes into effect, including on all Metro buses and vans. 

May 21:

Executive Constantine extends telecommuting to September 7 for Executive Branch employees.

May 22:

No new cases of COVID-19 reported among people experiencing homelessness for the first time in a month. 

More locations for COVID-19 testing at no cost available throughout King County

May 26:

King County Council approves report related to Renton Red Lion deintensification site, extending its lease agreement; report communicates the role isolation, quarantine, assessment/recovery and deintensification has played in preventing the spread of the virus and protecting the community.

May 29:

State order: Inslee announces Stay Home order to expire May 31, transition to Safe Start four-phase plan to reopening county by county.

Metro ridership remains 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.

June 1:

84 people staying in King County isolation and quarantine, including crew members admitted from an American Seafoods’ fishing boat with a number of cases of COVID-19 

King County leaders answer questions about protests and COVID-19

"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

June 3:

King County submits plan to reopen some businesses in modified Phase 1 Safe Start Opening.

June 5:

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.

More than 15 testing sites will be open in King County. All of the free sites are listed in a document available through the Public Health testing website.

June 8:

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

June 10:

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 Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

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