I can hardly believe that October is nearly here. It seems that many of us have settled into a new normal with work, school, and our personal lives. We have adapted. Some of these changes have been difficult.
Good afternoon, welcome to my September 30 COVID-19 Community Briefing. I can hardly believe that October is nearly here. It seems that many of us have settled into a new normal with work, school, and our personal lives. We have adapted. Some of these changes have been difficult – not seeing loved ones or friends and some have been for the better, we are washing our hands and have focused more on our health by eating better, exercising more, and taking care of ourselves and those closest to us. In many ways COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for those who have underlying conditions and has made us think about ways we can all be healthier.
Unfortunately, there has also been an increase in mental health issues. Many have experienced loss, of a loved one, a job, social connections and there is no doubt that this pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis has caused fear and anxiety about the uncertainty that surrounds us. I am heartened by the support I have seen from friends and family for those who are having a difficult time. We have pulled together and strengthened our support systems.
COVID-19 has put the health of ourselves and our community at the forefront of our minds and there are lessons that we can carry over into and through our recovery. We have greater access to telemedicine than we ever had, people report that they are eating healthier, and people are recognizing the importance of their own mental, emotional, and physical health. I am confident that Anacortes will come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever.
Washington State COVID-19 Updates
Now, I am going to report on the updates at the state and county level. We continue to see minor changes to improve safety and to mitigate risk in our communities. Recently, the Governor set new requirements for commercial airports and recommendations for airlines. This approach is to help protect the health and safety of workers, passengers and crew. These updates are important as we move into the Holiday season and see more people traveling.
The guidance requires face coverings in the airport; signage and spacing for physical distancing; protective barriers between travelers and workers; sanitization and disinfectant protocols; and that airport vendors and businesses follow state and county health agency requirements. It also strongly encourages airlines to establish health screening questionnaires for passengers regarding potential COVID-19 exposure or symptoms, and to require passengers abide by face covering and physical distancing requirements in order to be issued a boarding pass.
Phase 3 Metrics
The City has been closely monitoring the County Phases and Risk Assessment data compiled by the state. These indicators will determine when it is safe for our county to move to phase three. We have remained in phase 2 for much longer than we imagined but we are starting to be cautiously optimistic as we see our county getting closer to meeting these metrics.
The first metric is that we have fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 consecutive days – we have 24 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%. The percentage of beds occupied in a county must me less than 80%. We are currently at 73%. The fifth metric states that the percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 cases must be less than 10%, we are at 1.9%. We are meeting 4 of the 5 metrics.
The State is working on ways to measure data and the reopening of schools as they consider the next steps in reopening our communities. The original Safe Start Plan is undergoing many changes.
The Skagit County Public Health District reports 1,107 cases, 22 fatalities, and 98 total hospitalizations over the course of the pandemic. There have been 26,063 tests performed with 609 people testing positive at the Skagit County testing site at Skagit Valley College.
Mortgage Assistance Program
The Skagit County Commissioners have released the application information for the mortgage assistance program today. The program is funded by federal CARES act dollars and seeks to help those who have lost income due to COVID-19 and are currently at 50 percent or below area median income. Information is available on the Skagit County website. This is yet another resource to help those struggling to make ends meet during this trying time.
The Election is just around the corner and the Skagit County Auditor Sandy Perkins is spreading the word about key dates related to the upcoming November election. She says that one key thing to remember is if your ballot has not arrived in the mail by October 21, you should notify the elections department of the Auditor’s office.
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 5,891 people with a total of 64 positive cases, 10 positive hospitalized cases, and fortunately there have been no deaths in Anacortes.
Planning, Community and Economic Development
At the City we continue our services online, over the phone and through curbside service. Our Permits division continues to be reviewing and issuing permits, COVID-19 has not slowed things down. New Single-Family Residential permits for this year have reached 40 compared to 33 last year and Single-Family Residential alteration permits are at 119 compared to 115 last year.
Parks and Recreation
Anacortes Senior Activities Center
I will be hosting a virtual Coffee with Laurie 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 Anacortes residents.
The Meals on Wheels program, a partnership with the Senior Center and the County, continues uninterrupted. They provide essential meals to our homebound. Each month we serve an average of 68 clients who receive and a total of 1,350 meals per month.
The Parks and Recreation department’s “Camp Active” and the ACFL hikes called “Autumn in the ACFL” are happening this coming week. The City is continuing its work to find opportunities for students to get outdoors in a safe and physically distant way. More information on these opportunities can be found on the City’s website and by calling our parks department.
Anacortes Municipal Court
Our resilient community continues to find opportunities and partnerships that will make Anacortes a safer place with the quality of life residents deserve. Skagit County, the Didgwalic Wellness Center and the Anacortes Family Center have worked to create the Skagit County Community Court Team at the Anacortes Municipal Community Courthouse.
The County was recently awarded the Department of Justice National Community Courts Site-based Training and Technical Assistant Initiative federal grant and the County will be matching at 25% so over the next two years there will be approximately $500,000 invested in this community program. The grant will fund not only the salary for the Community Court Coordinator and Program Director, but also a part time case manager, and a dedicated Community Court location. This is an important resource for those in our Court system.
Anacortes Public Library
Library fall programs begin October 1 and the library is starting off with a full lineup of virtual events. Tomorrow don't miss Pajama Storytime with Ms. Diana at 6pm on Facebook and YouTube with a very special Ruth Bader Ginsburg story. Tomorrow at 7pm you can join the library and the Parks & Recreation department to find out about Asian Giant Hornets from an expert at the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Last year Americans visited libraries more than they did any other cultural activity, and this year has been no exception; here in Anacortes the library has kept us reading, connecting, and using our library daily in new ways. This fall the library is working to provide you with every service you need in a safe way until we can meet in person again. Make sure you never miss a program by signing up for library newsletters on our website, following the library on social media, or by checking the city calendar.
The most exciting change for October at the library is that curbside delivery will now include Saturdays, which means you can pick up books six days a week from 11-4pm. On Tuesdays the library has evening curbside hours until 7pm and books can now be returned during both those new hour slots.
- Will it be safe to go trick-or-treating by the time it is Halloween? If not, what should my family and I do?
Skagit Health Officer Dr. Leibrand has issued a press release discouraging in-person trick-or-treating stating that it vital to minimize in-person interaction with those outside our household to slow the spread of COVID-19. Trick-or-treating presents a risk for widespread community transmission. Instead of trick-or-treating, we encourage the Anacortes community to participate in COVID-19 appropriate activities such as: decorating your front yard or windows with Halloween themed decorations, taking a car ride with your immediate family to see community decorations, or doing a scavenger hunt for candy in your own homes with your immediate family or small social group. We are so close to being able to apply to phase three, everyone should stay the course and continue to comply with phase 2 guidance.
Fall is here and it is our time of celebrating the harvest of summer planting, time for pumpkin carving, and being in doors together. This fall, we need to bundle up, and be outdoors more, and continue to wear our mask and social distance. We are now months into the Stay Safe plan, trying to stay sane, and juggling work, and our family, and responsibilities.
Today, parenting consists of having a place in your home for online learning. We have learned to shop safely, gather safely with Zoom meetings, GoToMeetings, WebEx, and now Teams meetings. Many of us have realized that we have been overscheduled in our lives and have learned to pause and dial things back a bit. These are lessons learned I have heard from community members: to live in the moment, enjoy a sunset or a sunrise, find new ways to connect with old friends. I have weekly Zoom time with my four siblings, and we have visited more during COVID than we have in the last three decades.
According to the Cleveland Clinic survey of 1000 individuals 62% have adopted at least 1 new healthy change in their life, 65% have gained a new perspective on what really matters in their life. 27% have tried telemedicine, 76% have learned new strategies to cope with daily stress, cooking, meditation, exercise or quality time with family. 87% said they will continue new health diet changes now and after the pandemic is over. And 45% of families with Children report that they are eating healthier. So as much as COVID has been a challenge there have gifts from this pandemic.
Next Monday night I will present my budget message for the City’s 2021 budget to the City Council. My draft budget will provide the community with services and infrastructure that will serve this community as we continue to navigate COVID. Public Safety, Essential Services, and Quality of Life will be reflected in this budget presentation. Again, thank you for joining me this week and I will see you all soon.