The metrics set by the state will determine when we are able to move to phase 3. We are currently meeting 3 of the 5 metrics.
Good afternoon and welcome to my September 16th briefing. Cases of COVID-19 continue to climb globally as the United States and countries around the world continue to fight COVID-19. In the United States there are over 6.5 million cases and close to 194,000 deaths. Thankfully, as we see cases in Washington start to drop, we are cautiously optimistic. These numbers mean that Anacortes resident’s commitment to physical distancing and mask wearing is beginning to pay off, this should reinforce every person’s commitment to staying the course.
New cases in the state have been decreasing since the beginning of August, excluding Whitman county. These are encouraging trends, but I need to stress that the risk remains very high. One outbreak could wipe out our progress. Our Skagit County Public Health Department continues to focus on anticipating and rapidly detecting outbreaks. We are all doing our part to keep the reproductive rate of the virus below 1 – it has remained at around .86 since late July. By having less frequent and shorter interactions we can protect ourselves and the community. In Washington, 2.5% of those diagnosed have died and we expect to have 7-15 deaths per day through the remainder of the year.
While each person does their part, the City is thinking ahead about how to support businesses and as we move into fall and winter. We continue to adapt and adjust to life during this pandemic and economists are projecting that we may not see a full economic recovery in our country and across the world to pre-covid-19 levels until 2022. This slow path towards full recovery can only be made quicker by compliance with masking, physical distancing, and the eventual availability of a vaccine.
Safe Start Plan Phase 2 Updates
Recently the Governor issued new guidance for indoor fitness and training facilities as part of the updates to the Washington's Safe Start plan. Indoor fitness and training facilities in each county in the state can now reopen facilities like gyms, yoga studios, and indoor sports facilities for training, group fitness classes, and practice for certain sports. As fall approaches and outdoor options for fitness and training becomes less accessible, people now have access to facilities where they can safely exercise indoors. It is especially important with the recent poor air quality. Fitness centers are critical resource for maintaining physical health and are a resource for mental health.
By the Numbers
Island Hospital continues to support our community by testing and caring for patients. Throughout this public health crisis Island Hospital has tested a total of 5,258 people with a total of 55 positive cases, 10 positive hospitalized cases, and fortunately there have been no deaths in Anacortes.
Phase 3 Metrics
The metrics set by the state will determine when we are able to move to phase 3. We are currently meeting 3 of the 5 metrics. The first metric is that we have fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 consecutive days – we have 50.3 per 100,000. The second metric states that we must have greater than 50 individuals tested per each new case during the prior week - we are awaiting updated information from the State Department of Health on this metric. The third metric is that we must have less than 2% of people testing positive – we have 1.6. The percentage of beds occupied in a county must me less than 80%. We are currently at 68.8%. The fifth metric states that the percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 cases must be less than 10%, in our County we currently have no COVID patients occupying a county hospital bed, this is good news.
The Skagit County Public Health District reports 1066 cases, 22 fatalities, and 95 total hospitalizations over the course of the pandemic. Community transmission is still happening and if you are not able to wear a mask the Skagit County Public Health Department recommends that you stay home as much as possible.
Wildfires around the state set historic records for acres burned in just this last week. More than 629,000 acres have been consumed by wildfire in Washington state. Due to ongoing air quality concerns since Thursday afternoon the drive through testing site has been closed to protect the health of test site staff and volunteers. Starting next Monday September 21, the hours of the site will be 8:30pm-4pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 11am-7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Planning, Community and Economic Development
The Parklets have arrived and we are setting them up this week so that businesses can start using them as early as this weekend. This will benefit many of our downtown businesses as we start to have colder and wetter weather conditions.
The City’s Building and planning department remain very busy with 39 single family residential permits issued this year compared to 33 this time last year and 114 single family alteration permits issued this year compared to 115. The City has not slowed down in issuing permits this year!
The City has been notified that we will receive an additional $110, 324 of HUD CARES funding. Previous funding through CARES has gone towards the rental assistance program administered by the Anacortes Family Center, helping 6 families in need. Skagit County has used the funding to create a Skagit Community Foundation Small Business Grants of up to $10,000, which is available for small businesses with not more than 30 employees. There is approximately $100,000 still available for distribution of this grant. More information is available on the City’s website.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation, Library and Museum staff are working together with the Anacortes School District to provide activities for kids outside of school hours. We are excited that the Library staff may be able to join us doing story times with the younger participants. In addition to this we are looking at what space is available to offer reading support and possibly tutoring services. And finally, our staff is working with the Friends of the ACFL to offer forest and environmental activities to students and families. All of these will be free of charge. We are working with the District on ways to make these available to all families. We will have more information for our students and families soon.
City Staff removed the cannon at Causland Park so that our volunteers can begin their restoration work. The cannon will be stored indoors where volunteers will remove rust and repair the cannon which was first placed at the park around 1960. I would like to thank Councilmember Miller and Carter for joining me in meeting with a group of local citizens concerned about the veteran’s memorial wall. The plan is to have the restoration completed and the veteran’s memorial wall back in place by the Causland Centennial Celebration next year.
I will be working with the Anacortes Senior Activities Center to host a virtual Coffee on October 28th through Zoom. People will be able to participate similarly to the way they make comments at the City Council meetings. It will be an opportunity for me to connect with seniors and answer some of your questions. The Senior Center is also working to offer virtual enrichment programs in coordination with the Senior College. We also continue to provide meals through our Meals on Wheels program Monday through Friday.
Access, Anacortes Fiber Internet passed another milestone last week. We now have over 300 customers in service. Construction is underway in our expansion areas and very soon we will be able to install services to the 1300 premises that we are passing. We encourage you to pre-sign up for service, so we know the areas with the greatest interest in our service. With school back in session in an online format, and our continued need for reliable, and cost-effective internet service – the City is continuing to build out this important service.
Anacortes Municipal Court
Tomorrow, Traffic Court will be launched using a Zoom platform. Notices have been sent to defendants about how to proceed with the Zoom hearing and the Court website is being updated to reflect this new option. Criminal case will be transitioning to Zoom as well, however, defendants who are not comfortable with this approach can still appear in person before the Judge using appropriate social distancing.
We are happy to begin Phase 2 reopening of the Anacortes Museum’s Carnegie Gallery for individuals beginning on September 18, 2020. Open hours will be Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM and Sunday from 1 to 4 PM. A reservation for your free visit is recommended.
If you would like to reserve a visitation slot at the Anacortes Museum during our Phase 2 limited reopening, please phone 360-293-1915 during our open hours to schedule your visit. Drop-in visits will be allowed if no other visitors are present or scheduled. Visits will be limited to 25 minutes if other visitors are waiting or scheduled. More information on our Phase 2 reopening, current exhibits and remote access of museum resources may be found on the museum website.
Anacortes School District
The big news for this week is that our students began classes on Monday. The Anacortes School District has created a detailed schedule and is providing excellent support to our students and families. This is Lauren who is in 11th grade, James in 10th grade, Ashton and Ana in 8th grade and they are ready to take a on a new school year with the support of the ASD in their online classroom.
The Elementary, Middle, and High School have sample schedules available on the Anacortes School District website where we can see the innovative way that the district has created a learning environment in the home of our students where they can learn and thrive in a safe environment while we all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Our students and families need extra support from our community as we navigate how to help our students achieve our academic goals remotely and through a hybrid learning model. I want to call on all of us to show compassion and support our kids and families. We have families working, and setting up their students for class, being IT support, providing lunch and taking things one step at a time. I want to call on our Anacortes community to provide support and encouragement where we can as this school year begins.
Questions and Answers
- Is there a way to for officials to enforce mask wearing and physical distancing when it comes to the basketball courts? We have gatherings of over 5 and it seems unsafe.
When a citizen calls and tells us about a group gathering that seems unsafe, if we are able our officials will talk to the group. Our focus continues to be aimed at educating our community on the many benefits of masks in fighting the pandemic as well as the importance of fewer, shorter interactions. Rather than enforcement; our dedicated professionals in law enforcement are there to educate inform our community about the governor’s order. Physical exercise is an important part of staying health and improving mental health, but it must be done safely – wear a mask and stay 6ft apart.
It has been 6 months since we became aware of COVID-19 and that this was a global pandemic. We thought this would pass quickly but we reacted quickly and responded to this crisis in every part of our lives, on a personal level and community level. The economy, our schools, and our health systems were all effected. As I reflect – I realize we were nimble in our response early on. We responded with closures – safe measures, and only medical and business providing essential services were open, we all complied with stay at home orders to keep us safe, we collected data and worked with our partners at the local, county, state, and national level– sharing information, and supporting each other with access to supplies.
We did what was needed to be done and continue to do so to flatten the curve and take care for community and families. Now we are well into the recovery phase using metrics and data to make sound decision we have reinvented and strengthened our community, with interactions connecting socially and businesswise from a distance. With our Zoom meetings, drive by celebrations, phone calls, and dropping off gifts and needed supplies on each other’s doorsteps. I have seen a strengthening of relationships and reaching out, I have seen generosity with each other, when we were fearful or overwhelmed. We have been fatigued and we have yearned for normalcy. But we have remained thoughtful, strong, and slowly created our new normal as we open our schools, social interactions, and our business community.
Today, we have also proven to be resilient, with a strong healthcare system and a dynamic economy and an adaptive educational system. I want to celebrate the champions in our community, our families and teachers as this new school year begins. Our small business owners and restaurateurs who are the most creative people I have met. Our large companies that have provided much needed donations and resources. Our state federal legislators who have stepped up and provided funding. Our local health department for providing clear guidance and low barrier COVID testing at Skagit Valley College.
Early on we simply wanted things to keep moving forward and we thought if we keep things going at work and at home as if things were normal, that COVID would eventually just go away. Then our adaptations shifted when we realized that this would be a long journey. Now we have to focus on sustaining our efforts and creating new and creative ways to keep our community moving forward. There is so much seriousness, and concern about this new normal that I want to remind each and every person to laugh, and to smile. We are in this recovery phase for the long haul and we need to take care of ourselves and each other. Make sure to bring a bit of laughter and joy into your lives and it will help make clear that we are all in this together even though we are apart. Laughter connects us on a deeper level than words alone. Especially in times when laughter can be hard to come by.
I don’t know that I have a good answer for bringing laughter to work, or to our online schools, or to our limited interactions, but I do know that, we could all use a laugh and a smile – even if it may be hard to see it underneath our masks!
Thank you all for keeping your resolve, have a good night and I will see you again September 30th.