We are watching our numbers at the County level get very near to the targeted levels, but we are not there yet.
Good afternoon and welcome to my October 7, COVID-19 Community Briefing. The theme of this week, and the last few weeks has been – stay the course. We are watching our numbers at the County level get very near to the targeted levels, but we are not there yet. We must maintain our resolve and diligently follow the guidance of our Public Health Professionals.
The County Public Health Department has created network of support and our many partners across the County are working together. I have a call every week with all the Mayors across the county and with County public Health Officials to check in and get the latest information. We share information and move the conversation forward about how and when we can safely reopen.
At the City, we are focusing on how to support businesses and the community as it starts to get colder. We are also in the process of creating our 2021 annual budget and navigating the impacts of COVID-19. This year has been difficult for many, but I am continuously uplifted by the calls and email I get from engaged residents. Anacortes has been committed to staying safe and staying healthy and our numbers show it – so we must continue to stay committed to washing our hands, wearing a mask, and having fewer, shorter interactions outside our households.
Washington State COVID-19 Updates
On July 2, the Governor halted all forward progress in the Safe Start Reopening Washington Plan and his office has not restarted a County’s ability to move forward in that progress. While the governor maintains the statewide pause on advancing counties from their current phases, we need to focus on meeting the metrics so that once these restrictions are lifted our county will be eligible to apply. This week I have several updates from the Governor’s Office for Phase 2 to share.
New guidance for libraries align with that of museums, allowing some indoor activity in Phase 2 at 25% capacity. There are extensive guidelines for libraries to follow to assure the safety of customers and employees. Prior to reopening any operations, libraries are required to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control, mitigation, and recovery plan. The plan must include policies regarding the following control measures: customer traffic management; PPE utilization; on-location physical distancing; no-contact material returns; COVID-19 safety training; and more. Our library is working on a plan as we speak and information on reopening will follow in the next few weeks.
Youth and Adult Sports
The new guidelines will align school related and non-school related sports guidance. These guidelines will allow more school and non-school sports, both indoor and outdoor, according to a combination of local metrics, which align with state metrics for school opening recommendations. It also provides specific protocols for transportation, group size and facial coverings.
These guidelines will allow for occupancy in Phase 2 at 25%. Theater attendees will always be required to maintain a 6 feet social distance between households and to wear facial coverings when not eating and drinking. Each movie theater must adopt a written procedure for operations that complies with all employee safety and health requirements.
The guidelines will move alcohol cutoff from 10 PM to 11 PM, as well as eliminate the indoor household member restriction for indoor dining. Additionally, the guidelines will allow for the increase of table size to six in Phase 2. There are other additional updates on spacing in dining areas. New guidance for Taverns, Breweries, and Wineries have been issued as well.
For Real Estate, these guidelines will allow for open houses, but attendance will be limited based on gathering size limits in Phase 2.
These guidelines will provide protocols for Phases 2 for races, bicycle tours and rides, runs, cross country skiing races, biathlons, canoe and kayak races, marathons, cross country running competitions, triathlons, and multi-sport competitions with more than 12 participants.
Water Recreation Facilities
This guidance includes updates water recreational activities and facilities as well as Miniature golf and putt putt golf. The new guidance includes opening facilities by appointment only for lap swimming and small group swim lessons as well as Scuba Diving centers.
To review the full guidance on each of these activities please see the Governor’s website.
Phase 3 Metrics
The metrics on the State Risk Assessment Dashboard, which operates on a 10-day delay in order to ensure that data is complete, while most testing in Skagit County has a 72-hour turnaround time, most labs in the State take longer to report results. Preliminary data shows that over the next week or so our case per 100,000 will trend slightly upward again, and we will not stay below that 25 cases per 100,000 thresholds for long. Currently, we are at 32.5 for this first metric.
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 1.5%. The percentage of beds occupied in a county must me less than 80%. We are currently at 78.1%. The fifth metric states that the percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 cases must be less than 10%, we are at 0.9%. We are meeting 3 of the 5 metrics.
By the numbers
Island Hospital reports having tested a total of 6,262 people with a total of 68 positive cases, 10 positive hospitalized cases, and fortunately there have been no deaths in Anacortes.
Skagit County Testing Site
In the County we have 1,134 cases, 22 fatalities, and 99 total hospitalizations over the course of the pandemic. There have been 26,793 tests performed with 627 people testing positive at the testing site and Skagit Valley College. The testing site needs volunteers to help keep up this operation. Full day and half day shifts are available. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact the Department of Emergency Management at 360-416-1850.
Anacortes Public Library
October has the Library back to full time virtual programming. Next week is a live author event with New York Times Bestselling author Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Attendees can enter to win signed copies of his new book Kenny & the Book of Beasts and submit questions for the library to ask online. Tony is a world renowned illustrator and writer, so sign up online to ask Tony a question and attend this event at 4pm next Wednesday, October 14th.
Regular programs are in full swing with a storytime every weekday for families to watch either via Facebook or on the Library website. Library staff can help you browse for books in the Children’s Library with a new service called Personalized Picks. Complete the form on the library website sharing your preferences, and they will select up to 10 books for you to get at Curbside Pickup.
Parks and Recreation
The Parks and Recreation Department is also kicking off its Fall Reading Program, partnering with the Anacortes School District and with assistance from the Anacortes Library. The City is utilizing Volunteers to develop a reading program for elementary kids. This will be an in-person story time, with the goal of engaging kids and keeping them excited about reading. More information on this program will be posted to the City’s website soon!
Local Fiscal Impact
During this time the City has been tracking and evaluating the impacts of COVID-19 on our City budget and on Monday I addressed the City Council and Anacortes residents at the City Council meeting. I gave my Budget Message for the proposed 2021 Annual Budget.
The City’s financial roadmap for 2021 has been created in a time mired by economic uncertainty brought on by the Coronavirus. My message affirms that we are still creating a budget that reflects our commitment to moving our community forward by maintaining and building essential infrastructure and providing efficient, quality services.
A significant change in the 2021 budget is the transition from a biennial budget to an annual budget. We are leveraging the best available information and revenue projections to establish this annual budget. An annual budget will allow us to concentrate on the short-term economic indicators and be nimble in our response to the uncertainty of the current economic condition.
One major impact of the COVID-19 restrictions has been on our sales tax revenue. Sales tax is one of the largest tax revenue streams funding City functions. The City has seen an average monthly decrease in sales tax revenue of 11 percent, and in the recent 2 months we have seen an increase in sales tax revenues. Our information indicates that we will continue to improve throughout the remainder of the year.
Due to the economic landscape and projected decreases in revenue there are accompanying changes to departmental budgets. Several departments are utilizing what we have called a “hold the line” budget in which they remain staffed at their current level, continue to provide efficient high quality services, and move already established projects forward – beyond that, budgets remain static from the previous year.
The City’s rainy-day fund cash reserve in the General Fund increases or decreases as the City Budget grows or shrinks. For Fiscal Year 2020, that reserve stands at over $5.4 million dollars and is available to support general operations. Each of the Utility Funds have rainy-day reserves that represent 10 percent of that Fund’s annual expenditures and exceeds $2.2 million dollars for 2020. Additionally, the Equipment Rental Fund has over $7.6 million dollars set aside for future equipment replacement.
My budget message to the residents of Anacortes and the City Council is that I am committed to continuously evaluate City revenue and expenditures with a view of maintaining a strong financial position while providing quality municipal services. This budget has been created in the shadow of a devastating Public Health crisis, and I could not be more proud of the City’s response to this crisis. The 2021 budget provides our front-line public safety professionals will the resources and tools they need, continuously maintaining and improving our public infrastructure and facilities, and assures that every resident enjoys the quality of life of Anacortes.
Anacortes School District
The Anacortes School District recently announced it will be bringing students back into the classroom. After a recent survey, which received 1600 responses – she school district reports that 96% of respondents wanted students to return to in-person learning. The community is anxious to get students back into classrooms safely so they can learn with their peers.
For our Elementary schools, Anacortes School District staff continue to work on plans to reopen schools to some limited in-person learning. Elementary students will return in early November. K-3 students will return on Monday, November 2, and grades 4-5 will return on Monday, November 9 on a half day schedule. This new schedule can place a hardship on families, especially with childcare and so the School District has partnered with the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club who have expanded some of their services.
The School District will be opening middle and high school to some in-person instruction as well. Middle school students likely return to classrooms early December, and High school students will return in February. The School District is still working hard to plan for the transition back to the classroom for Middle and High school students with more information coming soon.
Kiwanis Aktion Club resumes Recycling TVs and Computers.
The Anacortes Kiwanis Aktion Club is starting their programs which recycles Computers, TVs, Computer Monitors, Laptops, Tablet Computers, E-Readers and Portable DVD Players for free for the State of Washington E-Cycle Program. This starts on the 10th of October and continues on the 2nd Saturdays of the month from 9AM to Noon at the Port of Anacortes’ Web Locker #36, at Seafarer’s Way and R. Ave. They are not able to accept other electronics like printers and fax machines.
As I mentioned, I addressed the City Council with my 2021 budget message this Monday. This budget message reflects my unwavering commitment to serving each and every resident to the highest standard, just as we have done during the COVID pandemic. It is my responsibility to make sure the community receives the most accurate information and resource, so we as a community can navigate the impacts of COVID-19. We have managed to keep COVID numbers low in our community at much risk to our economy. We have supported each other and made hard choices. The number of cases has fluctuated since July 4th and now we want to see how we can get our children back to school and guidance to reopen our business and public institutions safely. The landscape is evolving and changing, and we will continue to make strategic decisions that will support our long-term recovery and sustainability. Thank you, Anacortes, for protecting our community and each other, see you soon.