Skagit County moved to Phase 2 on June 5. As businesses start to reopen and people begin to return to work, please closely follow the new protocols and procedures issued by the Governor.
Good afternoon and welcome to the June 10 Mayor’s Briefing. I am happy to be with you here this afternoon to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on our community. Skagit County moved to Phase 2 on June 5. As businesses start to reopen and people begin to return to work, please closely follow the new protocols and procedures issued by the Governor. These guidelines are to assure that we get back to business in a way that is safe for employees and for customers. If you do start to go out please wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, and continue to wash your hands regularly. We must remain cautious and vigilant as we move through phase 2.
At the City we strive to be the voice of unity in Anacortes - I want to state unequivocally that we hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. I feel gratitude every day to be able to work for you and with you. I am excited to see our businesses get back to doing what they do best, I am so proud to see the class of 2020 graduating soon, and I am humbled by the generosity and kindness I see from the people in Anacortes. Anacortes is an amazing community because of the people it. I will continue to find ways to build understanding, address inequities and provide hope and support for our community members and local business in these difficult an uncertain times.
Safe Start Washington
Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman has approved 26 counties to move into phase 2. We were in phase 1 from May 5 through June 4. We will similarly remain in phase 2 for a minimum of three weeks.
The Governor’s Office continues to take a data-driven approach towards the goal of minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19. We will continue to move through the phased reopening county-by-county, phase-by-phase. We can mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 most effectively at the local level - our Skagit County Health department and resilient heath care infrastructure are well equipped to help support our County through phase 2, 3 and 4.
Safe Start Phase 2
Many businesses are starting to reopen, please be patient as we navigate this reopening. There has been guidance issued for construction activities, real estate, agricultural and manufacturing operations, Library curbside services and drive-in theatres. Professional photography services, pet grooming businesses as well as personal services such as hair and nail salons will begin limited reopenings.
Limited In-store retail is picking back up and dine-in restaurants, and public houses, are beginning to open with limited seating. Fitness and training activities and certain outdoor activities in small groups such as practices for professional sporting activities, and practices for some outdoor youth and adult team sports. Games may resume in phase 3.
Higher Education activities as well as office based occupations will start to resume in office work however, during phase 2 the guidance is to continue to work remotely if possible. Religious and Faith Organizations can expand their capacity to offer services in person.
Here at the City, the Fire Department has seen reduced calls relating to COVID-19 in the past week. As we move into Phase 2 staff will again be able to leave the fire stations to preform fire prevention inspections, public education, building familiarization, and working together as a crew to perform highly valuable physical training exercises. These training exercises are critical activities to remain proficient in firefighting and EMS skills and abilities. Being able to take the crews out to practice, train and learn are invaluable exercises.
Safe Start Phase 3 and 4
Phase 3 is still weeks away but the City, business owners, and employees are already preparing for it. One thing all business or entity operating in Phase 3 must do is develop a written Safety Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. This plan must be at least as protective as the requirements from the State Department of Labor & Industry. The Governor’s office has a template online or a business may develop its own Safety Plan. This plan must be available at the entities place of business for Washington State regulatory agencies or local health or safety authorities to review in the event of an inspection.
This phase will bring a partial reopening of our in-person city services at Anacortes Library, Museum, Police and Municipal Court, and City Hall. We are looking forward to seeing you soon! In phase 3 we will see nearly all business activities resume and expand services for businesses permitted to open in phase 2. We will also see outdoor sports activities with less than 50 people resume.
Phase 4 is a full return to public life and interaction. The Anacortes Senior Activities Center will reopen in phase 4 and they are already working on a plan to do so safely. We will reach this phase quickly by remaining diligent in our hygiene and social distancing practices.
Last weekend peaceful protests against the murder of George Floyd and the pervasive systemic racism in our country occurred. The City supports and protects citizens’ rights to peaceably assemble. Public places will always be open to peaceful demonstrations and the City will always support the public’s first amendment rights. City leaders value the voices of the community and several joined in the peaceful demonstration this last weekend. Myself, Councilmembers, and Police Chief Small believe that we can all work together to shape a brighter future for Anacortes.
Anacortes is committed to maintaining our city as a welcoming, safe, and just community for everyone and condemns acts of racism, harassment, and intimidation. We recognize the legitimate and nationwide concerns about excessive use of force. Here at the city we focus on continuous improvement and we will be engaging in a full review of our policies and procedures to ensure that our community is confident in the good work of our police department and our other city departments.
We are looking forward to having and open dialogue with the active participation of our community so we can ensure that we are best serving our community. We are an inclusive community, we want you to have full confidence in your city and feel assured that we are being proactive and taking this time as an opportunity to build trust in our community.
The Library, Senior Center, the Museum, and City Hall remain closed however, we continue to work on ways to reach you virtually and prepare for our return to in person city services. Our City employees are the cornerstone behind our essential services and many of these services have continue uninterrupted such as public safety, fire, EMS, water, sewage, and garbage. As we follow the plan for a phased reopening and expand our city services to pre-COVID-19 levels we look forward to serving you again in-person, efficiently, effectively, and compassionately.
Tune in tonight to learn about guitar making with one of our local business owners, Aaron of Penguin Coffee on tonight's Together We Discover Video. Storytimes and summer reading programs will continue through the summer. Don't miss Pajama Storytime tomorrow night and the last Friday storytime with Miss Lisa before Summer Reading Programs begin on Monday. Digital books, including in-demand titles at the top of the bestseller list on Hoopla, are available with no wait time, thanks to our Library Foundation. Join an update from one of our librarians tomorrow online for a special Digital Dive in Episode to find out what books you can check out digitally right now to learn more about racism in America, and how to find more resources on topics our community has been asking for.
Phase 2: Curbside Service
Now that we are in Phase 2, our library is allowed to begin curbside pickup services. The library staff are getting all the details in place to start offering the service soon. Check the library website or Facebook for forthcoming hours and instructions. The library's book drops are open Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am to 4pm. We have to collect the over 14,000 0 books checked out in our community.
The library will control the intake of materials until they get the bulk of it back, as materials need to be quarantined before going back out. The library staff appreciates your patience during this process, and look forward to beginning to offer curbside services.
The Parks Department has been working diligently to organize a reopening that is in line with the Governor’s Safe Start Plan. Currently Park Trails, the ACFL, the Washington Park Boat Launch & Loop Road, Fishing at Heart Lake and the Dog Park on "H" Ave are open. Athletic Fields, Pickle Ball, Tennis and basketball courts are all open with restrictions on group size. The road to the summit of Mt. Erie will be open Mondays through Thursdays.
The Washington Park Campgrounds are open; however, group camp is still closed. Camping is by reservation only and our drop-in sites are closed to reduce our capacity and promote physical distancing. Our Park Playgrounds, Picnic Shelters, and Facility rentals also remain closed. The Parks Department is looking ahead to phase 3 and planning how our services will change as we move through the phases. Please continue to be mindful of physical distancing as it continues to be necessary even as we begin to reopen some activities.
Local Fiscal Impact
During phase 2 our Finance staff is working remotely and is available to take questions during business hours. We continue to encourage everyone to sign up for autopay which can be done on the city’s utility billing website, or over the phone at 360-293-1909.
The City’s annual report has been submitted to the State Auditor’s Office, and now we are beginning the process of preparing the 2021-2022 biennial budget. I will work closely with the Finance Director and other department heads to create a budget that best serves this community and reflects our current economic situation. Development of the budget will begin in earnest later this summer. At that time we will have more information on how to set our budget expectations in these economically challenging times.
Planning, Community and Economic Development
The City has completed its initial review of applications received for the Small Business Stabilization Grants to ensure eligibility. A committee of Anacortes Business Representatives will be reviewing the applications this week to make a final determination on where the funds will be awarded. Businesses will be notified in the coming weeks if they have received this grant. We are proud to be able to support Anacortes businesses and help them jump start their business as we move into phase 2 and into phase 3.
We are seeing permits continue on a steady uptick with inspections per day increasing. As phase two allowed for the start of new construction we expect to see an even more drastic increase in the days ahead.
We are currently working on a guide for expanded restaurant and retail space on the sidewalk and in the street when Commercial Avenue is closed for weekends. This is intended to allow businesses more room to expand services while facilitating social distancing, ensuring that as we transition back to in person business safely. The city continues to work with downtown merchants to find ways to assist in our community’s economic recovery.
We have an exceptional group of students graduating this year. Our community has come together to celebrate the 168 Anacortes High School and 32 Cap Sante High School seniors graduating this year. A community car parade will take place on June 17 from 3 to 4 pm, where seniors and their families can drive down Commercial Avenue to be congratulated on their accomplishments. Virtual graduation ceremonies can be viewed on Anacortes High School’s YouTube channel and they will be held on June 15 and June 17 at 7:00 pm for Cap Sante and Anacortes High Schools.
The Anacortes School District continues to be a stable and uniting voice for students and families across the district. The district is delivering 4,000 meals each week to children at home. They have had a safe childcare program for 25 children of essential workers, more than 100 students currently receive virtual mental health support, and they have been dynamic in transforming education system by developing a virtual learning program for 2,700 students.
We have seen the administration, teachers, para-educators, and support staff meet this challenge with energy, and commitment. We have witnessed an outpouring of support and encouragement from teachers to parents, and from parents to teachers. We are truly in this together and our families and the Anacortes School District have embodied that. Looking ahead -our School District is awaiting guidance on what next year will look like. We look forward to these recommendations later in June.
Slowing the Spread
Globally there are nearly 7 million cases, and the total deaths worldwide is over 400,000. It is difficult to grasp how many families and friends lost someone who they care about. As we navigate a way forward through phase 2 we need to continue to remain cautious and be aware that COVID-19 is still a threat. In Skagit County there are a total of 449 cases and 15 deaths and 51 hospitalized cases. The curve is flattening in the county and across the state.
By the numbers
Island Hospital has tested 1,272 people and currently reports 29 positive cases. The total positive hospitalized cases is 8 and there have been no deaths. Island Hospital has resumed providing its non-urgent medial services and surgeries while retaining its ability to care for an increase of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations if necessary.
Our health care workers have been tirelessly working since April to that anyone who wants to be tested can now be tested anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. We are all excited to move to phase two and this testing site is one of the critical systems that has allowed us to safely do so. Skagit County continues to encourage residents to follow the guidance of our Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand and wear a mask in public, avoid large group gatherings, use physical distancing, staying six feet apart from anyone they come in contact with outside their immediate household members, continue to telecommute, if possible and for those who are higher risk, continue to stay home as much as possible.
Questions and Answers
- Where do I find out if I can reopen and guidance on how I am supposed to reopen my business?
Phase 2 allows for the reopening of some in-person retail, professional services, personal services and restaurants with up to fifty percent capacity. The Governor’s Office is providing a detailed list of specific industries and their associated guidance. Businesses must be able to comply with issued guidelines on physical distancing and hygiene. For more information and complete guidance on requirements for businesses to reopen, please visit the Governor’s website.
- We have been hearing a lot lately about de-funding police departments around the country. If we did that here, what would it look like for our police department and who would be the one to call when a police officer is needed?
I do not believe the defunding our police department is in the best interest of the City of Anacortes, what we need to do is provide funding for an embedded social worker to work alongside our police and parks staff, to assist those in need of social services, housing food, addiction treatment, and mental health services. Emotions in the United State are running high, anytime emotions are high I do not think good choices are made, we need to slow down and be thoughtful about the importance of public safety in all communities.
These are unprecedented time, we are navigating COVID-19 balancing protection of our health and our economic recovery. Citizens of anacortes have done and amazing job. We now enter phase 2 and we get to get a haircut, dine in, shop at our favorite store - but we must remain vigilant.
We have all been fearful and angry with COVID-19. In addition to that, emotions have been running high as we have all felt the sadness and the outrage over the senseless acts of violence. Last Friday and Saturday our community had a peaceful protest and chalk art as a peaceful tribute to victims of racism and inequality. These are troubling and unpresented time in our nation and around the world. As a nation and a community, we are addressing long held beliefs and systemic racism. This is not a comfortable time.
There is anger directed at police officers because of members of some police departments have misused force and misused their authority, which resulted in senseless preventable deaths. There are ways to address use of force in police departments, but I do not believe that the answer is to remove or defund police departments because of the failure of a few. The Anacortes Police Department, is one of the most professional well run departments in the state of Washington. They are exceptional human beings, who take care of anacortes, and have bene there for citizens when we are at our worst and most vulnerable time.
I will continue to support the Anacortes Police Department as we weather this incredible and disheartening time. I am working with Chief Small as we educate our City Council and the community about the trainings and policies in place at the APD. I believe education and sharing our story is an important part of how the APD strengthens its connections to the Anacortes Community.
We at the City support all members of the community and are prepared to do the work required to examine our interpersonal and institution racism and confronting systems of inequity and enduring racial injustices that traumatize people. I will be working with staff, city council and the community, to identify training to increase our understanding of racism and what we can do to address it.
Thank you all for doing your part as we navigate this pandemic and have honest, difficult conversation in our community.
Many of us know Ray Conger, who recently passed away, as the bubble man who was a ray of sunshine in Anacortes - always bringing a smile to our faces. I want to end today’s briefing by sharing a recipe for Ray’s Giant Bubbles that was shared with us so that you and your family might be able to enjoy some bubbles on the next sunny day. Ray reminded us that anyone bring joy into the world even through something as simple as bubbles. He was well known in this community and he will be dearly missed. Take care I will be back next week.