COVID-19 update from County Councilmember Rod Dembowski

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Rod Dembowski represents north end cities on the King county council, including Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, and Kenmore


As the COVID-19 emergency continues, I wanted to share with you highlights of the work King County is doing, the impact on our operations and opportunities for assistance. There are a number of updates below on these issues. 

Additionally, we received more news Monday during Governor Jay Inslee’s news conference. You can watch the livestream here or read his statement here

I’ve been working to identify locations in North King County to site additional Isolation, Treatment and Recovery Centers. The most notable site has been in Shoreline. In partnership with the City of Shoreline and the school district, I identified a workable field hospital site last Monday. In one week, King County has constructed temporary structures that will support a 200 bed facility. 

The Shoreline Area News has additional details here and here is the letter I wrote to constituents asking for their support for the field hospital. The county has a goal of bringing 3000 beds online to relieve pressure from our hospitals, making sure that we have capacity for those most in need.

I’ve also been working on efforts to support small businesses and individuals who have lost their sources of income. Many elected leaders throughout the region joined my letter to the Governor asking for enhanced unemployment benefits, cash assistance, and support for small businesses. Some of these measures have already been implemented.

Along with my colleagues, we are partnering with the tourism and cultural sectors, which have been especially devastated by the necessary public health orders. We are working hard to ensure that our cultural, arts, and heritage institutions survive this unprecedented situation, and that our tourism businesses will be ready to rebound.

Thank you for doing your part to combat this infectious disease by staying home and respecting recommended distances from others when you need to head out.

If you need help, please reach out.

Best wishes,
Rod Dembowski
King County Councilmember

METRO AND SOUND TRANSIT FARES DISCONTINUED AND CHANGES TO SCHEDULES
Metro and Sound Transit ended fare collections on Saturday, March 21st. This means riders will not be required to pay fares when riding any King County Metro or Sound Transit service. Passengers will also now be directed to board and exit at rear doors, reserving front door access for customers using mobility devices or who require use of the boarding ramp.

Metro and Sound Transit have reduced service on some routes. You can find out more information about the changes here.

As the new schedules roll out, buses may be running less often, during fewer hours, and/or be canceled. As such, Metro is encouraging riders to text their bus stop ID # to 62550 for to find out when the next bus will arrive.

WHITE HOUSE DECLARES MAJOR DISASTER IN WASHINGTON STATE

On Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee shared that President Trump had declared a major disaster in Washington as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration grants the state’s request for assistance with crisis counseling and training to address the impact of the outbreak on the mental health of affected Washingtonians. Other disaster assistance programs requested in Inslee’s letter remain under review by the White House, including expanded unemployment assistance and basic food benefits.

GOV. INSLEE NAMES STATE DIRECTOR FOR COVID-19 HEALTH RESPONSE MANAGEMENT

Gov. Inslee also announced Sunday that he had named retired Navy Vice Admiral Raquel C. Bono as Washington state director for COVID-19 Health System Response Management. Bono is currently a senior fellow with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. As the former chief executive officer and director for the Defense Health Agency, Bono led a joint, integrated support agency that enabled all branches of the U.S. military medical services to provide health care services to those engaged in combat. She is the first woman surgeon in the military to hold the rank of vice admiral.

WASHINGTON CAMPGROUNDS CLOSED

Various state agencies on Sunday announced the closure of all state campgrounds across Washington to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Campgrounds, which include cabins, yurts and vacation houses, will remain closed through April 30.

Day-use areas and trails remain open, but due to the volume of people visiting Washington’s ocean beaches, the state is asking the public to avoid those areas. People should continue to practice social distancing when recreating outdoors.

HARBORVIEW HALL NOW A RECOVERY CENTER

King County has joined with Harborview Medical Center to plan for opening an isolation and recovery center in the county’s Harborview Hall building, located at 326 Ninth Avenue.

Harborview Hall, which is across the street from Harborview Medical Center, will be repurposed to serve as a recovery site primarily for people who do not have a home to rest and recover and who may have other health needs requiring a level of monitoring. This location will offer a very vulnerable population a safe place to recover, with onsite clinical support provided by medical center staff.

These isolation and recovery locations are all part of our continuing effort to slow the spread in our community and to preserve critical hospital beds for those with the most acute healthcare needs.

PLAYGROUNDS AND SPORTS COURTS CLOSED

King County and City of Seattle has announced we are closing playgrounds and sports courts. The closure includes playground equipment, picnic shelters, basketball and tennis courts, ballfields, and other active recreation locations. Playfields, however, remain open for walking and other non-team activities.

Parks, natural lands, regional trails, backcountry trails, and beaches where social distancing can be maintained remain open.

GET A PEEK INTO THE KENT QUARANTINE FACILITY

Thanks to a donation of food and supplies from Amazon, King County's Kent quarantine facility will now begin serving community members who can't isolate at home. Our staff produced a video about it. Get a look inside the center here.

FEDERAL TAX DEADLINE MOVED TO JULY 15th

Individual and business taxpayers will have an additional three months to file their taxes this year, as the federal government took more steps to help workers and business owners during the continuing coronavirus crisis. President Donald Trump on Friday directed the U.S. Treasury to move the filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. Filers will have the additional time to file and make payments without any penalties or fees.

REMINDER: STILL FILL OUT YOUR CENSUS FORMS

The 2020 Census is ongoing during the pandemic. The decennial count of all people residing in the United States is used to allocate public resources over the next decade along with representation in state and federal government.

People are encouraged to respond to the census by mail, phone or online. The more people respond via these options, the fewer workers will be sent out into the field later this year to conduct in-person counts. More information here: https://2020census.gov/

SPECIAL GROCERY HOURS FOR SENIORS, AT-RISK SHOPPERS

Many grocery stores across King County—including Safeway, Whole Foods, Target, and Uwajimaya—have announced special times of day where only seniors and at-risk people can shop. My staff has compiled a partial list of participating stores and hours on our website.

NEW STATE CORONAVIRUS WEBSITE

We just received word of a brand new website launched by the state that can be considered the definitive, comprehensive source for information on coronavirus. You can find links to official information from a wide range of trusted sources, including government and community services. Visit the site here.

FREE INTERNET ACCESS AND HOTSPOTS

We just learned that Comcast Xfinity WiFi hotspots across King County will be available to anyone who needs them for free. A map of free hotspot locations and info on how to connect is here. There are thousands of these hotspot locations across King County.

The company is also offering 60 days of free internet access for low-income families. To sign up, applicants can visit their website.

CULTURAL RELIEF FUND

I have been so inspired by all the artists, organizations, and individuals finding creative ways to respond to this crisis. At King County, our cultural funding agency 4Culture will be offering a Cultural Relief Fund of $1 million. Full details and timeline are not yet finalized, but I encourage visiting their COVID-19 site for details. They have also compiled a resource list for cultural organizations and practitioners which will be updated daily.

SEATTLE CHILDREN’S NEEDS DONATED MASKS

Yesterday I learned that Seattle Children’s is actively working to acquire more protective equipment for its providers, patients and caregivers. If you have access to any style of basic isolation masks they could use them.

They can accept curbside drop off of unopened boxes or bags of masks between 9am-3pm M-F at the Seattle Children’s Guild Association Office. That is located within the Seattle Children’s Administrative Building located at 6901 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

After you drop off they will get these items to the hospital; please do not drop off supplies at the hospital. Please call 206-987-7000 when you arrive and they will come out to your vehicle.

RESIDENTIAL EVICTION MORATORIUM

The Governor announced Thursday afternoon that he has instituted a statewide moratorium on residential evictions for 30 days. You can read more details on the moratorium at on Inslee’s Medium page but know that the City of Seattle has already instituted a ban on evictions, and the King County Sheriff’s Office has said it won’t enforce evictions during the continuing outbreak.

UNEMPLOYMENT WAITING PERIOD WAIVED

Inslee also announced that the state is waiving the one-week waiting period for out-of-work employees to collect unemployment benefits, retroactive to March 8.

ACTION FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

To help businesses impacted by the crisis, Inslee said that up to $5 million of the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Funds will be made available as small grants to small businesses across the state to help prevent closure due to COVID-19. The state will also be able to waive penalties and late fees for certain late business tax payments, and a number of tax fees will be waived for both business owners and residents.

ESJ GRANTS NOW AVAILABLE

Locally, the King County Office of Equity and Social Justice released criteria for community-based organizations to apply for grants up to $25,000 to fund outreach, education, and community engagement in these critical areas: language access, health literacy, cultural sensitivity, community and ethnic media outreach, and anti-bias and stigma resources.

The grants are funded by $1 million that I voted to approve as part of emergency funding for the county’s COVID-19 response. You can read more information on the program here.

FINANCIAL RESOURCES

If you missed any of my earlier updates please know we have been compiling resources to help people with financial needs during this unprecedented time. You can find all of the resources on the King County Council website, including options to download each page as a PDF if you would like to share it with others or keep it handy.



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