(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
The last time the City of Seattle launched a new department — Seattle Information Technology, which brought IT staff from across the city under one roof — the consolidation took years. “In contrast, we had about eight months,” said Chris Lombard, who leads the City’s newest department: the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC), which began work at the beginning of June.
In some ways, creating the CSCC involved fewer moving parts than the infamously messy set-up of the massive citywide IT department. When plans to move the parking enforcement unit to the CSCC fell through this spring, Lombard was left overseeing a single, crucial service: Seattle’s 911 call center. The center, historically a civilian unit inside the Seattle Police Department, will play a key role in the City’s efforts to shift away from a police-centric approach to public safety, and the City’s decision to house the 911 call center in the new department was one of the first concrete steps in that effort.
As almost 80% of eligible Seattle residents are fully vaccinated, City officials announced on Wednesday that the University of Washington Medicine and other public health partners will take over COVID-19 testing and vaccinations efforts from the Seattle Fire Department (SFD).
“The mission of the Seattle Fire Department is to save lives and protect property and the environment,” Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins told the press Wednesday. “We never really know what that means from day to day, but I think the last 16 or 18 months has shown us that we’re capable of standing in the gap in many different places.”
Since June 2020, SFD has administered roughly 800,000 COVID-19 tests, and one in three Seattleites have used the free testing provided by the department, according to the City.
Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has publicly stated that anyone who is vaccinated against the novel coronavirus can resume all activities — such as going to the grocery store and gathering with friends — mask-free, the Washington State Department of Health is still urging caution.
In a May 19 press briefing, Department of Health (DOH) officials said that it is important to continue to exercise caution and care. The state’s transmission and disease levels are still not where they need to be, though more than half the state has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We are seeing with complete data and even the projection moving forward is that we believe that we are seeing that flattening and that decline,” DOH Health Sec. Dr. Umai Shah said of the state’s disease and transmission levels. “That does not mean that every place is having the same kind of decline.”
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
Get a COVID Vaccine Through ICHS
International Community Health Services (ICHS) continues to receive COVID vaccine supplies and to vaccinate both patients and non-patients alike. ICHS was recently named by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as one of the first community health centers to receive COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, and they are receiving regular shipments from this and other sources.
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Morning Update Show — Friday, Feb. 12
City Vaccinates 400 African American Elders | NAAM Shooting Update | Where Is the Urban League? | Queen Care Opens in Central District | A Look at the Mayoral Race
A large wave of COVID-19 cases is expected to arrive in Seattle due to a variant strain of the virus, meanwhile South King County remains the most impacted by the novel coronavirus, county public health officials said in a press conference Friday afternoon. Vaccinations have been distributed at higher rates in north and central King County. In response the county has stepped up efforts to increase the number of vaccination sites for South King County residents in the past week.
In an online press conference Friday, Jan. 29, Jeff Duchin, MD, the health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County said that while COVID-19 cases have declined in King County for the past three weeks, the current level of transmission still represents a “serious health threat.” Duchin said he expects that the more contagious and potentially more lethal B 1.1.7. variant, already discovered in Snohomish County, will be “likely be found in King County any day now.” Reacting to Gov. Inslee’s announcement this week that King County will be allowed to return to Phase 2 of Washington’s Road to Recovery Plan, Duchin acknowledged, “The mixed messaging is very challenging. We’re currently in a decline. And people are feeling good. But I need to remind everyone that we’re still at a high level even though we’ve come down.”
Seattle’s older adults living in supportive housing will be the next in line for vaccinations against the novel coronavirus offered by the City’s mobile vaccine clinics, the Office of the Mayor announced in a press release on Jan. 22. This newest mobile vaccination effort began on Jan. 21 and includes older adults who had formerly experienced homelessness and who now receive wraparound case management services, as well as older, low-income adults living in affordable housing.
The City of Seattle has been approved to become a vaccine distributor, and, as soon as Thursday, Jan. 14, will start distributing vaccines to adults living and working in adult family homes via two mobile vaccination units staffed by the Seattle Fire Department. The fire department is the first EMS agency in the state to be approved to become a vaccine administrator.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan made the announcement in a press conference on Jan. 12, saying that the mobile units — which will specifically focus on residents and staff of adult family homes who are not covered by the federal program to vaccinate people living and working in adult family homes — are just the beginning of the City’s vaccination efforts. The vaccines will be provided at no cost to recipients.
The Holidays, like everything this year, have been changed by COVID-19, and one of the annual programs affected by that change is Toys for Tots, an organization with over 70 years experience distributing toy donations to the community. Traditionally, Seattle fire fighters partnered with the Marine Corps by collecting donated toys at Seattle fire stations, but due to COVID, this year the Marines and the Seattle Fire Department held two drive-through drop-off events: one on Saturday, December 5 at University Village in North Seattle and one on Saturday, December 12, in the QFC parking lot on Rainier Avenue South.
Carol Slosberg, who lives in South Seattle, said, “when my kids were young we picked gift requests off the tree at U Village. This year I decided to stay closer to home and this toy drive fits that. The need feels especially overwhelming this year.”