Durkan Digest: one year since the first COVID-19 death

February 28, 2021
Durkan Digest: one year since the first COVID-19 death

This week, our region is reaching a sobering milestone. February 28, 2021, marks one year since Public Health - Seattle & King County confirmed the first COVID-19-related death in King County.

Just over one year ago, our city was booming, vibrant, and focused on the future. Everything seemed possible. But 2020 changed everything, including the way we live and work in Seattle and how city government works. [The pandemic] also led to lost jobs and wages and the closure of so many of Seattle's small businesses, so our City [government] has responded with new programs, like grocery vouchers, free testing and vaccines, and grants to small businesses and immigrants. During one of the most challenging moments in our city's history, our 12,000 City of Seattle employees have focused on delivering essential services amidst a pandemic and advanced our shared priorities. Working together, we will get through this unimaginably challenging time for our city.

At the start of this public health crisis, COVID-19 cases quickly surged across the region and state. With the guidance of our world-renowned scientists and academics, state and local public health officials, and local nurses, doctors, and health care officials, we were able to quickly implement critical public health measures to help flatten the curve while also addressing the significant impacts on our region's workers and small businesses.

I am proud of the good work that the City has done to help Seattle residents and workers get through this impactful year. We have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of our region's leading officials' quick actions and the commitment of Seattle residents, Seattle has the lowest number of cases and hospitalizations of the top 30 major cities.

In addition to these measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the City has also created a number of programs to respond to the impacts of the virus - many of which were the first of their kind in the country and served as a model for other cities.

As we look back at the past year, it is important to remember that while we are not out of the woods yet, hope is on the horizon. Our recovery starts with vaccines. This year, I announced that the City of Seattle was approved to serve as a vaccine distributor, and the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) quickly launched four mobile vaccination teams to vaccinate [residents of] long-term-care facilities and older adults in senior affordable housing. To date, the SFD has administered 8,000 vaccines (and counting) to vulnerable residents and workers, with approximately 70% to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities.

Even with our limited access to vaccines, we were able to launch two smaller sites in disproportionately impacted areas of Rainier Beach and West Seattle.

For now, we all still need to follow public health guidance. This means masking up, physical distancing, and caring for our neighbors.