I want to commend all the citizens of this community for flattening the curve in Anacortes, being involved in making sure your family and neighbors are taken care of, and for reaching out to me to have discussions about difficult topics and the future of our community.
Good afternoon, welcome to my COVID-19 Mayor’s Briefing for June 24. I want to commend all the citizens of this community for flattening the curve in Anacortes, being involved in making sure your family and neighbors are taken care of, and for reaching out to me to have discussions about difficult topics and the future of our community. We are Anacortes, we are resilient and I have deeply impressed by every persons compassion, dedication and commitment to the wellbeing of our community.
The last few challenging months are nothing like our community has ever seem. We have hard work ahead of us, and I am committed to keeping you updated and engaged as we move forward together.
Phase 2 has gotten us excited about getting back to work, connecting with friends, family, and seeing our businesses, retail, and restaurants open up. We are ready and focused on the reopening of our economy. By following the Governor’s Safe Start plan we will be able to move one step closer to our normal interactions in our community and in our businesses.
I am heartened by the compassion in our community for those who have been effected or lost their lives to COVID-19. We did the work that kept the majority of us safe- we stayed home. We have been successfully navigating this new COVID-19 reality and in doing so you have keep your family, neighbors, and community member safe, thank you.
The Governor has issued an order starting this Friday June 26th for all people in Washington to wear face covering. The State Health Officer reports that the science is clear - when we use face coverings, we limit the spread of droplets being passed to others when we talk, cough or sneeze. Wearing a mask is one of the most effective things people can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This correlation has been seen in other countries, if the majority of the population wears a mask – we can reduced the spread of COVID-19.
When Masks Are Required
This mandate is for when you are inside, in line to enter inside, and any place outdoors when 6 foot of distance is not possible. Those who are age 5 and under should not wear a mask. You can use scarf, bandanas, to sewn masks or any face covering you have access to – the state has issued this order as an important measure and a critical step as we reopen and restart our economy.
Phase 3 Metrics
We have been in the second phase since June 5th – on Friday we will have been in phase 2 for three weeks. There are several metrics which the Governor and the State Health Department will evaluate applications for phase 3 as well as our eligibility to apply, all of which our county health department has been diligently tracking and recording in anticipation of this application.
As of right now – we are meeting all of the metrics set by the State to move to Phase 3. However, after discussions with the Skagit County Health Department I feel it is important to indicate that the recent rate of new cases makes it unlikely that we will meet the Governor’s metrics by Friday June 26th. We may not be eligible to apply for Phase 3 on Friday if our rates of infection continue at this rate or continue to rise.
The Skagit County Board of Health will be meeting this Friday to discuss what the next steps will be for the County – and if we are eligible to apply to move to phase 3.
As of right now there are 5 counties still in phase 1, 18 counties in phase 2, and 16 in phase 3.
Safe Start Washington
For the remainder of Phase 2 -the Senior Center, the Museum, Library, the Municipal Court, and City Hall remain closed to the public. I am working closely with each Department Head to develop a plan for their Phase 3 reopening. During this unprecedented time the response from our employees in this has been remarkable. The City has been flexible, creative, dedicated, and hardworking.
Each facility has different needs and will open in a limited capacity in phase 3 as the Governor is still encouraging telework. We will transition back to full service in Phase 4. Wearing a mask will be required in accordance with the Governor’s Proclamation, and making an appointment will be highly encouraged to ensure that we are able to physically distance, clean and sanitize areas appropriately and ensure the safety of our visitors and employees.
We will post information regarding changes to hours and availability on the City’s website, and outside of City Hall.
City Facilities: Phase 3 and 4
City facilities will look slightly different than when you last visited, there will be stickers to indicate proper physical distancing, Plexiglas shields, and some new procedures for in-person services. City Hall will see a limited reopening at the Permit Counter, in the finance department and other in-person city services. The Library and Museum will have limited in person services, we will see more reopening of Parks facilities in phase 3 as well including playgrounds and games may begin on the ball fields. Anacortes Municipal Court and the lobby of the Anacortes Police Department will also open in phase 3. The Anacortes Senior Activities Center will reopen in phase 4.
What’s Open: Phase 2
Changes to out recreation, gatherings, travel and business will also happen as we move to phase 3. In our current phase, we are still limited and encouraged to stay home if possible. Some of our business are open but gatherings of more than 5 are prohibited. Guidance has been issued for construction activities, real estate, agricultural and manufacturing operations, drive-in theatres, pet grooming and personal services such as hair and nail salons – and more.
What’s Open: Phase 3
In phase 3 recreational facilities will open and outdoor recreation group sizes will increase to 50 or fewer people. Non-essential travel will fully resume and nearly all other business activities will resume. We will see an increase in service at many of the industries listed in phase 2 as well.
The Governor has also issued guidance for non-religious weddings and funeral or memorial services as well as updated information for faith based organizations, which permits indoor capacity of 50% or 400 people, whichever is less. Phase 4 will be a full return to public interactions, we will reach this phase a minimum of three weeks after we enter phase 3 if we continue physical distancing and good hygiene practices.
Local Fiscal Impact
The City is being proactive in addressing the potential shortfall of revenue due to the impact of the Stay Home Order and the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday night City Council adopted a budget amendment ordinance that reduced the City’s 2020 budget by over 1.6 million dollars. Budget savings have been across the board with each department sharing the burden. We looked closely to reduce costs in a way that would minimally impact services and would maintain the high level service the residents of Anacortes deserve. $169,000 of these costs are in staff savings, much of which coming through attrition in the Park’s department, where there are 3 vacancies, as well as cancelling most seasonal staff hires this summer, our management and full time staff have pitched in to help during this summer.
The Council also approved a reduction of $679,000 dollars in the road overlay program. The Public Works Department will still continue its annual plan to slurry seal neighborhood streets with this year’s work beginning July 13. Streets to be done this year will mainly be near D Avenue in the center of the city. The Planning department reduced its budget by $193,000 eliminating to consulting contracting costs. Another $100,000 that was removed from the budget allocated for consultants to develop an enhancement plan for South Commercial Avenue.
Other areas of savings include $53,000 in training, $41,000 in deferred repairs and maintenance, $39,000 in tools, and $40,000 dollars out of the Library’s book budget. We want to be open and transparent about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our City’s budget. We are being vigilant in monitoring revenue projects and we will keep you up to date on how this will shape our upcoming budget process.
Right now we have begun working with other departments to update the Capital Facilities Plan, to identify the next 6 years capital needs, the first 2 years of which will flow into the City’s biennial budget.
The next biennial budget is in its early stages of development. There is a great deal of uncertainty in the economy due to this unprecedented tragedy of COVID-19, and we will be fiscally responsible in creating this current year’s budget, and developing the next biennial budget.
Today, we received our sales tax report for April, it came in at 70% of normal, this was higher than anticipated and were encouraged in the short term for our community’s ecoonmy and come back.
Planning, Community and Economic Development
Our Planning department is creating a guide for expanded restaurants and retail space on to the sidewalks. The guide would allow the merchants to use the Parklets in front of their business and on Friday and Saturday nights. The Parklets will arrive in August - in the meantime the Planning Department is working on a set of guidelines to be used while Commercial Avenue is closed and for better use of sidewalk area. The City’s Planning Director will discuss this plan with the City Council on July 6.
Our Planning Department is also working to keep our Planning Commissioners moving the City’s business forward. Each commissioner will receive a Laptop in the coming week that will allow them to begin work on the Shoreline Master Program workshops virtually until we are able to have a Public Hearing.
Small Business Stabilization Grant Review Committee
The City will be funding 16 businesses for a total of $160,000 and agreements that went out this week for signatures. The City would like to extend our thanks to the Committee of Anacortes Business Representatives who were involved in reviewing the grant applications, your volunteerism and knowledge is greatly appreciated.
Thank you to Bill French, Gina Davis, Andy Stewart, Warren Tessler, Dustin Johnson, Frank Jeretzky, and Meredith Mcllmoyle for participating in the review process. Your commitment to the community is to be applauded.
Thank you to all those who are maintaining good social distancing as our park amenities have begun to reopen. The campground at Washington Park is back up and running at 2/3rds capacity. We are evaluating the first few weeks of operation and then we can discuss reopening the rest of the campsites. Our Parks staff is in conversations with the County Health Department on what they would like to see from us as we move forward.
Our Parks and Recreation Team has come up with a summer program guide to help families plan for Phase 3 recreational activities. Check out these activities on the City’s website. Fall soccer sign ups have also begun!
The Parks Department continues to move projects forward including the Grand View Cemetery Expansion which requires a conditional use permit. This is scheduled to go before City Council on July 13. Once the permit is approved we can begin the bidding process for clearing and grading.
The Depot Plaza Restroom Project is moving forward with Semrau Engineering revising drawings for the custom CXT restroom unit that will include a sink for the Farmers Market. Once the drawings are completed and approved we can look to going out to bid of a contractor to prepare the site.
Fourth of July
The City of Anacortes also made the difficult decision to cancel its Fourth of July town photo and patriotic parade. We have set up a virtual town photo for this year to continue the tradition! You can join by submitting your picture now through a link on the City’s website, on the front page or on the Parks page. The software will then place your submitted photo on a backdrop at 5th and Commercial. We look forward to this new way to keep this fun tradition alive. Please call the parks department if you have any questions.
The community fireworks display has been postponed until it is safe for larger groups to gather. We will let you know when we will be able to enjoy these fireworks together as a community again. Later this year, we will celebrate our country’s independence and navigating COVID-19.
The Parks Department is also working on a collaboration with the Library and Museum to have activities for families to do on the Fourth of July. I will share more information on that as it comes out via our website and at my Patriotic Address, which will air next Wednesday July 1 at 4pm on Channel 10 as well as on our website, and through the City’s Social Media.
The 4th of July Holiday is a truly important day to recognize how important our independence is and to share in the pride of being an American here in this beautiful place we call home, Anacortes. Please take this opportunity to put flags in your yard and have a BBQ with close family. Enjoy your time together and celebrate our country’s day of independence.
The museum has created a plan for reopening in Phase 3 and looks forward to seeing you again soon. The Carnegie Gallery will open the gallery for one person or one group at a time visits during normal hours. Please call the Museum to get information on the new processes and restrictions. Transactions and research requests will be done by appointment and phone and email customer service will be encouraged whenever possible.
Maritime Heritage Center will also open the Maritime Heritage Center initially for one person or group at a time visits during normal hours - with restrictions. The W.T. Preston will not open in Phase 3 due to the difficulty of maintaining social distance in the tight spaces and many handrails and surfaces requiring cleaning.
Library Phase 2: Curbside Service
Last week the library began curbside pickup so we can now all checkout new books. Curbside pickup hours are weekdays from 11:00 to 4:00, with book drop return hours on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:00 to 4:00. Please see the library website for updates and details. Browse our website for new books and place your holds so you can stop by and get new items delivered right to your car.
This week, continuing the Together We Discover series join the library for a fly fishing adventure tonight online. Teens interested in registering for summer reading workshops and activities can check the library website for details.
Summer Reading is going strong. Next week the Library is excited to host a Virtual Magic Show with Anacortes's own Elliott Hunter! It will be next Wednesday, July 1st at 11:00am and registration is required. Families can visit the library website to sign-up and a Zoom link will be sent via email the day before the show. At the end of the show Elliott will be teaching aspiring magicians a few magic tricks. The library is grateful to The Kiwanis Club of Anacortes for sponsoring this event.
Story times continue in July as well as additional Summer Reading Programs throughout the summer so stay tuned in online and enjoy your new reading materials.
Anacortes School District
According to the States’ Reopening Washington Schools 2020 District Planning Guide -the 2020–21 school year will likely have split or rotating schedules with Distance Learning, aspects either by phases, geographic Region or by Grade Level, and continuous Learning 2.0. We all want to see our students get back into classrooms to engage with teacher and their fellow students –however, the governor indicated that he must monitor health data carefully, and proceed with caution. If COVID-19 cases spike or spread, the state’s plan is subject to change.
New Superintendent of the Anacortes School District
We welcome Dr. Justin Irish who on July 1, will become the new Superintendent of the Anacortes School District. He has been working with district staff and the school board to assist with the transition for several months focusing on planning efforts related to COVID-19. Over the coming months staff will be planning for what the next school year will look like. The district’s plan during this uncertain time will focus on health, safety, and equity.
The new Superintendent has a master’s degree in teaching from Seattle University and a doctorate of education from the University of Washington. He was selected from a large pool of well-qualified applicants. He has demonstrated collaborative leadership qualities, focus on equity and team building, and a commitment to student achievement. We welcome him to Anacortes and to the Anacortes School District.
By the numbers
Looking at the global cases there are 8.8 million and 465,000 deaths from COVID-19. In the United States we have seen nearly 2.8 million cases and almost 120,000 deaths.
In Washington State there are close to 29,000 cases and there have been 1,276 deaths. Masks play an important role in slowing the spread of COVID-19, they are now required to be worn by most employees and at the City our staff has been wearing masks for several weeks. Wearing face coverings is an important way to assure customers and employees of local businesses feel safe patronizing our businesses and secure as they return to work.
Island Hospital has tested 1,824 people and currently reports 34 positive cases. The total positive hospitalized cases is 7 and there have been no deaths.
COVID-19 is available at Skagit Valley College Monday –Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Skagit County reported no new cases Monday. That brings us to a total of 485 cases, 419 recoveries, 55 hospitalized and 15 deaths.
Skagit County is looking for volunteers to help at the drive-through testing site. Volunteers would be directing traffic, helping register people or helping testing. Shifts are available Monday through Friday if are interested in volunteering, contact Tina Bobbitt with the Department of Emergency Management at 360-416-1853.
Questions and Answers
- When will we move to phase 3?
The County will move to phase 3 after the application is submitted. The application cannot be submitted until after June 26th and if the county as a whole meets the following metrics: rate per 100,000 of newly diagnosed cases during the prior two weeks must be less than 25. The number of individuals tested for each new case during the prior week must be greater than 50. The percent of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 during the past week must be less than 2%. The percent of licensed bed occupied by patients in the county must be less than 80%, and the percent of licensed beds occupied by COVID-19 cases must also be less than 10%. While we are meeting the standards for these metrics right now – the recent rate of newly diagnosed cases has been concerning in recent days and we are not confident that we will be eligible to apply on June 26. Our County Health Department is closely monitoring these numbers and be discussing next steps on Friday.
- With the Governor’s new Mask order will the Anacortes Police Department be enforcing the order?
The Anacortes Police department continues to focus on education
Mid-March seems like a lifetime ago as we have weathered this virus known as COVID-19. We as human beings are courageous, smart, creative, adaptable, compassionate, and generous. We have gone from confusion and fear to action and anger – and now resolve and acceptance of our new normal, living with COVID-19 until there is a vaccine or immunity.
Our families are stronger, our business have become creative and are making adaptive changes to survive COVID-19. Our Government has taken incredible risk with federal funding and stimulus moneys to assist individuals and businesses. All Government at the county and state level have taken the responsibility to guide us and navigate this virus with directive very few of us like. But know, we need to do this to flatten the virus and support our individual health and our health care providers and institutions.
We can persevere, Anacortes has the fortitude to get through these unprecedented times. We will be a stronger and better community. Rising from this, to a more incredible place to live and work. As a country and community, we are also facing – head on – systemic racism and social justice. We have started to have community conversations and our City Council Public Safety Committee has met with the Police Department and reviewed all policies and operating procedures.
We are proud of the work of the APD – I can tell you, our department does not condone the use of respiratory restraints, known as chock hold or strangle holds. They are banned by our policies and have not been allowed for the last three decades.
I also want to read to you, Resolution 2060, this was passed by the City council and approved in 2019.