day : 02/04/2020 10 results

CORONAVIRUS: Thursday 4/2 roundup

We’re on orders to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” for another month, and that’s just one of the headlines in our nightly roundup:

MAY THE 4TH BE WITH … YOUR HEALTH: Gov. Inslee‘s early-evening media briefing led off with his announcement that the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order – originally expiring April 6th – will go until May 4th. (Many “Star Wars” references followed.) The governor continued his wartime analogies, meantime, but also congratulated everyone for doing their part. Our coverage includes video of his announcement and the Q&A that followed.

NEWEST KING COUNTY NUMBERS: rrom today’s Seattle-King County Public Health news release:

2,656 confirmed positive cases (up 175 from yesterday)

175 confirmed deaths (up 11 from yesterday)

One week ago, the cases/deaths numbers for King County were 1,577/109.

TWO MORE NEARBY DEATHS: Checking the county’s data dashboard for the first time in a few days, two more local zip codes have had someone die of COVID-19, 98106 and 98146; previously, 98126 and 98136 had 1 each. Here are the newest numbers of confirmed cases, people with test results, and confirmed deaths, by zip code:

98106 – 28/213/1

98116 – 18/240/0

98126 – 29/240/1

98136 – 13/155/1

98146 – 37/222/1

Both 98106 and 98146 stretch beyond city limits.

(Photo courtesy Neighborcare Health)

TESTING IN HIGH POINT: Thanks to reader tips, we learned today that West Seattle’s first outdoor COVID-19 testing location opens tomorrow. Neighborcare Health is operating it behind its High Point clinic, in the parking lot it shares with the (closed) High Point Library.

NUCOR MAKES PPE: The steel mill alongside the West Seattle Bridge has joined the fight against COVID-19, with engineers using business and personal 3-D printers to make shields for local health-care workers.

TOP HAT QUARANTINE SITE UPDATE: King County had estimated that its quarantine/isolation site in Top Hat, east of White Center, would open tomorrow. That’s not going to happen, county official said today – there’s still work to be done. We’ll have a detailed update on partner site White Center Now later tonight. Meantime, 33 people are now staying in other county facilities set aside for quarantine and/or recovery.

RESOURCES ROUNDUP: As we’ve been mentioning, there’s an avalanche of assistance offers. Could any help you? The city’s put together a roundup you might want to browse. Among the possibilities it mentions is the Paycheck Protection Program we spotlighted this morning at the suggestion of a reader.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Another example of neighbor-to-neighbor encouragement, from Yma, who explains that someone mysterious leaves surprise treasures like these:

The rock with the smiley face was the first (some nice glitter paint on the other side). Today – I was going out to get my elderly gato his meds & came upon the painted shell at the bottom of the porch steps. This warms my heart, brings a smile, and gives me hope.

GOT INFO? or text/voice 206-293-6302 – thank you!

WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: Attempted business break-in

As if small businesses don’t have enough to worry about … Evan at Lady Jaye in The Junction sent that photo of damage to their door, explaining, “Someone tried to break in our back door last night, so remind everyone to lock their doors and set their alarms, especially the businesses that are empty. We are here a lot so it’s easier for us to police. All of our booze is off-premise too.” Local police say their emphasis patrols have switched focus to include closed businesses, but they can’t be everywhere – they’ve provided this advice, too.

UPDATE: Governor Inslee extends ‘stay-home’ order through May 4th

5:04 PM: For the second day in a row, Gov. Inslee is gathering media (virtually) for a COVD-19 response update. Watch above, and read our as-it-happens notes below.

He opens by saying he’s extending the “stay-home order” through May 4th. (Its original expiration was to be April 6th.) He says it’s “morally necessary” because the full force of the virus hasn’t hit yet and modeling suggests at least 1,000 deaths, “and more will die if we stop now.” He says the percentage of positive tests is going up, so “we’re not out of the woods yet” and “we will not accept unnecessary deaths in our state.”

He acknowledges there are economic consequences and that everyone must find ways to support those who fall into financial hardship “through no fault of their own.” He reiterates that health recovery is vital for economic recovery. He quotes FDR about confidence and courage. “I have confidence in the courage of Washingtonians.” He stresses, “This is temporary. … All of us are leaders in this effort.”

While it’s OK to be outdoors, he extols “walks around the block” – but don’t, for example, go to Skagit Valley to see the tulips (which apparently some are doing even though the festival is canceled).

5:13 PM: Q&A starts with whether there might be another extension. “Ye, that is possible … but because Washingtonians are so committed to this, we are hopeful that will be the end.” But no guarantees. He also acknowledges that “rebuild(ing)” the economy “is going to take all of us.”

What will tell him it’s OK to lift the order? He says he is consulting many experts with lots of data, and we “have our destiny in our control” by continuing distancing.

Should people wear masks? The state health officer says that like federal experts, they’re evaluating that. She also says the peak is expected around Aprl 11th but “they are feeding new data into this model every day.”

5:37 PM: Q&A continues. The governor repeatedly stresses that social distancing must continue so we don’t “pull defeat from the jaws of victory.” He says the experts think person-to-person contact has been reduced by about 80 percent. He also reiterates the importance of mobilizing manufacturers to make PPE since we can’t rely on the federal government to mandate it. He says what’s happened to New York could have happened here if not for the measures taken. He also says Washington has “probably the second-highest per-capita testing” of any state.

5:41 PM: He wraps up with a Winston Churchill quote. The video window above should soon show the archived recording, so we’re leaving it up.

7:59 PM: Here’s the full news release from the governor’s office.

West Seattle Bridge cracks still growing post-closure, and other news from our quick Q&A with SDOT’s director

(Looking east under the high bridge from Marginal Place)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Ten days have now elapsed since the sudden, shocking news that the West Seattle Bridge was unsafe and would be shut down immediately. SDOT warns in a new online FAQ that “we anticipate a lengthy closure.” Monday’s City Council briefing suggested that means months, not weeks.

So, many questions remain.

We were able to ask a few of them in a brief conversation this morning with SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe (a West Seattle resident). Our allotted time was short so these are by no means all the questions that we (and you!) have – but it’s a start. (We also have questions, mostly technical, out to SDOT in writing.) Exact quotes are marked as such.

TR: What’s happening right now, today, regarding the work toward finding out what’s wrong and getting a temporary shoring plan?

SZ: “Our roadway structures division lead Matt Donahue has personally visited the bridge just about daily … we are still trying to understand what exactly is going on with cracking on the bridge … we are still inspecting every day after taking the live load off the bridge; we are still trying to understand what is causing the cracking to happen. Our repair and interim shoring plan has to respond to the structural issues that we are facing and so we still have to understand exactly what’s going on and make sure that our repair plan is responding to those issues. So we’ve got the same consultants [WSP] that have been part of this … going back to last year when we started analyzing this cracking in more detail have still been with us working on continuing to understand what’s been going on and what our repair strategy can and should be.” As for when they will know they have enough information to proceed with a temporary shoring plan, that’s dependent on their “modeling” matching “what we’re seeing in reality” during those daily inspections, to “understand where the stresses are appearing in the bridge and how we can address that.” The modeling involves analyzing how the bridge is reacting to forces including gravity, wind, load compared to how it “should be responding” to those factors, and what it can tell them about “where the bridge is going over time.”

TR: What has SDOT seen since the must-close-the-bridge-now discovery on March 23rd?

SZ: “We have still seen some crack growth.” They’re installing stress-monitoring instrumentation – real-time monitoring should be in place within a week – and are also “mapping” the cracks to see if they’re growing at the same rate as before the closure.

(Signage at west end of lower bridge, a small part of the white sheet covering the old green sign)

TR: The low-bridge restrictions are being ignored. When will a decision be made on enforcement? And when will the signage be improved?

SZ: “We implemented the detour plan [on March 23rd] extremely quickly and there are certain things that we have limited capacity, especially right now in terms of our public-health emergency response … We are working to improve the signage over the next week or so and increase some of the size, make sure there’s better signage, and hope that that in part can lead to better behavior. … Enforcing the restriction is not necessarily an easy task, and what we have been working on over the last week with the Police Department is … there has not been active enforcement of the prohibitions but police have been out there at various points, observing, having a presence, but then also figuring out… how we could safely and effectively enforce the restrictions.”

(Screengrab of SDOT camera, tweeted Sunday by @kazzmere)

TR: What about measures to keep people off the high bridge? We’ve received multiple reports of people seen walking, running, biking, skateboarding on it. Will there be better barricades (etc.)?

SZ: “There likely will.” Police were dispatched on Sunday to check out two reports of people on the bridge. “It is not … open to pedestrians, it is closed because it’s unsafe to be up there right now, for anybody; we don’t want anybody up there at all, it really is a hazard to people … We recognize that we may have to upgrade the fencing to make sure that people aren’t up there … we’ll do that as we need to.”

From there, we went back to the high bridge’s condition:

TR: Which side of the bridge are the worst cracks on?

SZ: “Both … the south side of the bridge [eastbound] is in a little bit worse condition … that’s potentially because it’s getting more solar exposure … hotter from the sun … but again, we don’t know exactly what all the causes of the deterioration are, but that could be one part of it.”

TR: Given the unique nature of the bridge, have you been in contact with anybody involved in building it?

SZ: Not sure about that but knows they’ve “reached out to folks who were part of SDOT over the years” and they’re also talking with WSDOT “and some of their bridge experts.” Part of what led to the discovery of this problem was consulting firm WSP bringing in some experts – “I believe from Toronto” – and some “academic bridge experts … so we’ve got a lot of eyes on it, and we’re looking for all the best advice and thoughts that we can get … Building a bridge like this, maintaining it, repairing it … there’s no one way to do it, and we’re looking for the best ideas of how to do it effectively.”

We were over our allotted window by then, but SDOT had indicated they wanted to clarify the pre-closure timeline a bit, so we asked about that last.

SZ: “The late February notification was an indication that we needed to think about reducing the number of lanes on the bridge by the end of 2020 – over time. It wasn’t an immediate ‘hey, do this right away’. March 19th was more of a ‘hey, this is a big issue'” and recommending full closure. That led to Donahue going to the bridge daily over that weekend and then Monday (March 23rd) morning, when he “went back inside the bridge – and a lot of this you can only see from inside the bridge – that takes some effort to actually (get) inside the bridge, make sure people can get in and out safely – so when he went back in with the WSP consultant and another one of our bridge engineers, that’s when he confirmed the growth of the cracks and also recommended full closure.”

TR: So the February 21st “think about reducing lanes by the end of 2020” wasn’t a life/safety matter?

SZ: No, and they knew what an effect even lane reductions would have on West Seattle, so they were talking about implementation, mitigation, “starting that conversation” but “in a month in the middle of our public-health emergency we had not been able to have a lot of those discussions that we would need to have to be able to implement even a lane reduction … and then it became a public-safety concern very quickly.”

As noted above, we have other questions pending with SDOT, and have requested an interview about the traffic plan – from monitoring of the detour routes to strategies that might be deployed when “stay-home” time is over and traffic starts getting back to something resembling a normal level. So watch for more followups.

Our ongoing coverage is all archived here, newest to oldest. SDOT’s project page is here, including the new FAQ.

CRIME WATCH FOLLOWUP: Help for domestic-violence victims

This morning, we published the Seattle Police report about a woman beaten in West Seattle and the arrest of her boyfriend. The SPD information included a mention that domestic violence calls are up 21 percent in the past month citywide. Following up on that, here’s a message from SPD’s Victim Support Team:

1) Home is not safe for everyone. While national and local leaders have encouraged us to stay home to stop the spread of the pandemic, we also know that staying home may not be safe for many adults and children experiencing domestic violence. Community resources may be harder to access, and existing anxiety and fear will be compounded by this new global crisis.

2) Domestic violence thrives behind closed doors. Social distancing can magnify the feelings of isolation that domestic violence survivors may already be experiencing. This is an important time to encourage friends, family and neighbors to reach out and support each other in new and creative ways. Reaching out to let someone know they are not alone, can be incredibly helpful to break isolation.

3) Help is available. The Seattle Police Department is working alongside local community and national partners to ensure victims have access to the support they need to keep their families safe. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence in your relationship, please call the The National Domestic Violence Hotline, (24 hours everyday), 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY).

4) Call if you can, text if you can’t. When attempting to call 911, an already dangerous situation can intensify if an abusive partner tries to interfere with the call, or the violence escalates.  The King County Text-to-911 technology offers survivors of domestic violence an added resource when they are unable to call for help.  People who use this service must remember to text their exact location and type of assistance they need in their first message, so the call taker can begin to dispatch law enforcement response immediately.

UPDATE: Neighborcare setting up outdoor COVID-19 testing in High Point parking lot

12:43 PM: Thanks for the tips. Three small tents labeled as “COVID-19 Testing” have gone up in the parking lot behind the Neighborcare Health clinic and High Point Library off SW Raymond east of 35th SW.

They don’t appear to be in use yet. Neighborcare’s website says, “Neighborcare is doing limited testing for COVID-19. … We are working to set up outdoor testing at multiple sites that ensures the safety of our staff and patients.” The notice asks patients to “call 206-549-5710 to talk to a nurse or medical provider before coming to a clinic.” We have a message out to the organization to ask about the High Point plan, and will add anything we find out.

1:27 PM UPDATE: Neighborcare has responded to our inquiry:

As of Friday, 4/3 Neighborcare Health at High Point will have outdoor COVID-19 testing and exams available for current Neighborcare Health patients by appointment only. Conducting tests and exams for patients with COVID-like symptoms outside in tents allows us to keep our patients, staff and the community safe. This model has been used by other health care systems in the area.

Neighborcare Health patients with respiratory illness symptoms, such as a cough, fever or shortness of breath, should call 206-548-5710 to make a phone appointment with one of our medical providers. We are asking patients not to come to the clinic, but to call first. Based on guidance from the Washington State Department of Health and the patient’s situation, the medical provider will determine if a patient should get tested and/or be seen in-person for an evaluation.

Our health care teams are also still available to help patients with other health care needs during this time. To help protect patients, staff and the community, we are temporarily scheduling most appointments by phone, including medical, behavioral health and nutritionist visits. If someone needs urgent or emergency dental care, they should call 206-548-5710 to schedule a phone consultation with a dentist before coming to a clinic.

In all cases, a health care provider will determine if a patient needs an in-person appointment. Interpretation services are available for in-person or phone appointments. For in-person visits, we put extra safety measures in place to protect patients and staff, such as screening all patients and visitors coming to the clinic, and limiting the time patients are in the waiting area.

HELPING: Here’s how engineers are making PPE at Nucor in West Seattle

As reported here on Wednesday, Gov. Inslee is asking Washington manufacturers to turn their expertise and capabilities to items desperately needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We learned that one local company already has jumped in – Nucor Steel in West Seattle is making face shields with 3D printers – 20 so far, and gearing up to be able to make 100 a week. We spoke Wednesday afternoon with Nucor’s Patrick Jablonski, who has just sent photos and more information.

They are doing it with “both on-site and employee-owned additive manufacturing (3D printing) capability. Nucor Seattle engineers who specialize in additive manufacturing researched “needs, tested designs, and optimize Nucor-owned hardware in addition to their personal 3D printers at home. Currently, the effort is focused on producing National Institutes of Health-approved face shields for medical workers and frontline caregivers. Nucor is now printing holders for these face shields and has purchased plastic and straps under the guidelines issued by the NIH. Nucor is also researching and designing various forms of respirator components that can be fitted with household media such as coffee and vacuum filters.”

Once they came up with the idea, Jablonski told us, it only took about a week to formulate a plan. Now, they are working on optimizing production to 100 shields a week, and then might be able to increase the production rate.

The first 20 masks were donated to Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle (which recently announced its first COVID-19 case). Jablonski says, “The Nucor Seattle team is continuing to reach out to local health care providers to learn about additional needs and design concepts.” Nucor also has donated extra PPE to local medical centers, including hundreds of N95 dust masks, and nitrile gloves.

WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: Suspect arrested for assaulting woman in West Seattle

Just in via SPD Blotter:

Seattle police arrested a domestic-violence suspect in Kent on Wednesday after his girlfriend was beaten and left in a wooded area of West Seattle last week.

Around 11:30 PM on March 24th, an injured woman walked up to a West Seattle home and asked for help.

The residents called 911, and police contacted the woman, who said she had been riding in a car with her boyfriend when he pulled over in a secluded wooded area. The man then reportedly pulled the woman out of the car and assaulted her, knocking her unconscious. The woman sustained significant facial injuries and had blood on her clothing following the attack.

The victim was transported to the hospital for further treatment.

Detectives from the SPD Domestic Violence and Major Crimes Taskforce obtained a warrant for the 26-year-old man and were able to locate him in Kent where, on April 1st, the SWAT team took him into custody.

Over the last month, the Seattle Police Department has seen a 21-percent increase in reports of domestic violence. If you, or someone you know, has experienced violence in a relationship or at home, please call or text 911 to get help from Seattle police and the Victim Support Team.

FOR BUSINESSES: ‘Paycheck Protection Program’

We’ve seen an avalanche of resource links for potential economic assistance related to COVID-19-ordered business closures and layoffs. If you have a business, Casie emailed to recommend a look at the Paycheck Protection Program. She suggested that we “remind small businesses in West Seattle to take advantage of the PPP program which is scheduled to start this Friday. This is the program that funds the payroll, rent and utilities of small businesses who have been impacted by the pandemic for up to 8 weeks. So many of us depend on our small businesses and I hope they and their employees can get some relief through this program.” The infopage describes the PPP as a Small Business Administration “loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.” Thanks to Casie for the note. (The West Seattle Junction Association and WS Chamber of Commerce also have been sharing resource info with their members, so if you’re on their lists, be sure to read the emails!)

TRAFFIC/TRANSIT: Thursday watch, second week of West Seattle Bridge closure

5:44 AM: The high-rise West Seattle Bridge remains closed for the 10th consecutive morning.

The low bridge is reserved for transit, freight, emergency response, and Harbor Island access – the city hopes you’ll honor that without the threat of police enforcement.

The main alternative across the Duwamish River is the 1st Avenue South Bridge (map) – that’s also how to get to I-5, cutting across Georgetown.

You also can cross via the South Park Bridge (map).

Check the @SDOTBridges Twitter feed to see if a bridge is opening for marine traffic.


SDOT’s traffic map
Our traffic-cams page
Metro‘s canceled trips as the Reduced Schedule continues
Sound Transit Route 560’s Reduced Schedule
West Seattle Water Taxi schedule

Let us know what you’re seeing on your alternate commute – comment, or text (not if you’re at the wheel!) 206-293-6302.