Seattle: Let’s Keep Leading the Way on COVID-19
By Mayor Jenny Durkan
As reported by the Seattle Times, Seattle is recording the lowest cases of COVID-19 compared to the top 30 other major cities with currently available data. In addition, Seattle has some of the lowest hospitalizations and deaths throughout the entire crisis, despite being the earliest epicenter.
Days after the first case in Seattle, local officials knew that COVID-19 would be one of the most transformative, consequential events in our region, state, and country. Seattle was the initial epicenter, and without any national playbook, Governor Inslee, Executive Constantine, local and state officials, and I agreed to take quick, decisive action. Fortunately, in Seattle, the nation’s leading scientists and public health officials helped inform our early response to the pandemic. Unlike the other Washington, every step of the way our local officials, residents, and businesses have understood how dangerous and deadly COVID-19 is to our community.
Those early actions helped our city, region, and state save lives. In addition to Governor Inslee’s ‘Stay Home. Stay Healthy’ order, our City and Public Health – Seattle & King County have closely monitored outbreaks and created new policies that kept our community safe – from requiring face coverings, to actions to protect our most vulnerable at long term care facilities and homeless shelters, to distributing 1 million items of PPE, to creating new policies at our parks and streets for our residents and businesses.
Seattle is leading the country in our response to COVID-19 because of the continued actions of Seattle’s residents and businesses. Our community believes in practicing physical distancing, wearing face coverings, washing their hands, and limiting their gatherings. Most of our businesses have transformed into safer establishments to minimize the risk to both employees and customers. When individuals are exposed to COVID-19 or feel sick, anyone can visit our free citywide testing sites that have now done more than 230,000 tests. All of this has been made possible with our partnership between government, the University of Washington, our local hospitals, and the tireless commitment of our health care and other essential workers.
There continues to be no national leadership or recognition of basic scientific facts. We are not taking our leadership cues from a White House whose actions continue to put at risk the lives of so many.
To address both the public health crisis and economic crisis, I continue to listen and learn from other cities. While each city and county must continue to monitor outbreaks and increases in cases, I wanted to analyze cities across the country to see what additional actions that we should (or should not) take.
In the early days of the virus, many cities like New York City did not act quick enough and saw an astonishing surge in cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. We have now seen that many cities have reopened too quickly, which has led to a dramatic increase in cases.
Here’s what we know: seven months into the crisis, Seattle has the lowest cumulative cases of the top 30 major cities in the U.S.
Early on, Public Health – Seattle & King County led the way to ensure King County and Seattle residents had timely data and could accurately track cases, testing, hospitalizations, and much more data localized for each city. You can find many of the dashboards here. *As we looked at other cities and counties, many counties did not report city level data or data on testing, hospitalizations and deaths, so countywide data and population are used for comparison.
We also know that Seattle fares better than some entire states. Take South Dakota. While a similar size in population, South Dakota has nearly four times the number of cases, more deaths, more hospitalizations, and less testing by comparison.
Across the country, there are now 7.4 million cases and more than 209,000 deaths. Many individuals have been hospitalized. We must never forget that these loved ones are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and friends. Many families could not be with their loved ones in their final days or mourn their losses. Ultimately, we are taking actions locally to protect our friends and family while preventing our health care system from being overwhelmed.
COVID-19 will continue to be in our community until there is a vaccine or proven treatments.
We need to continue to be vigilant and continue our efforts to save lives. The actions of individuals who ignore public health guidance will hurt the health and wellbeing our friends, families, and community.
Later this week, I’ll be announcing new efforts in the City of Seattle to expand access to flu vaccines. For any residents who has been exposed to COVID-19 or may have symptoms, our free citywide test sites have conducted more than 230,000 tests for Seattle workers, residents, and businesses.
In this challenging year, let’s continue to prove to the country and the other Washington that science prevails and saves lives.