With the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, in King County, smaller cities such as Covington and Maple Valley are preparing for any potential cases or necessary shut-downs in the upcoming weeks.
Neither the City of Covington or Maple Valley have declared emergencies, unlike surrounding cities such as Renton and Kent. Covington Spokesperson Karla Slate said all city commission meetings have been cancelled for the month but the city plans to host its regular Covington City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Tuesday meeting will no be available to attend online, but Slate said the city is researching how to have remote meetings. The city is also preparing for any potential changes to the city’s COVID-19 response.
“We are preparing an emergency proclamation, action plans and other policies/practices to put in to place when the time comes,” Slate said.
Covington City staff is being encouraged to work from home it they are able to, especially those who are showing any signs of illness.
The City of Maple Valley is also hosting its regular city council meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday. While the meeting will not be live-streamed online, residents can request an audio recording of the meeting beginning Tuesday.
“The city canceled non-essential meetings last week. We will be meeting with City Council tonight to discuss all public meetings scheduled for the remainder of March,” Maple Valley Spokesperson Laura Philpot said. “We are working with our Senior Management Team and Emergency Management to identify various ‘what if’ scenarios and our response. Public Health remains the lead agency and they would be consulted if we become aware of any confirmed cases within Maple Valley.”
Local first responders staying calm
Since first responders are on the front lines when it comes to medical calls, local EMS and firehouses are taking precautions to help ease the spread and keep their fire fighters safe. Captain Joe Root, the Public Information Officer for the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, said his crew is in contact with King County Public Health, the Washington Department of Health and the King County Fire Chief’s association. In response to questions, Root provided a quick statement on the situation;
Fire Agencies across the region have put measures into place to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading, and to protect community members and personnel. 911 dispatchers are asking patients the right questions to keep crew members fully informed, and firefighters are following a number of safety protocols when responding to emergency calls. Read the latest update provided by the King County Fire Chiefs Association: https://bit.ly/32EQA35.
The Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority is fully prepared for the evolving COVID-19 outbreak. We have put measures into place to help protect you, our patients and ourselves. Dispatchers are doing an excellent job informing crews when patients are symptomatic, and responders are following appropriate safety protocols like wearing protective equipment, being extra careful when providing treatment, and decontaminating equipment/gear after calls. Learn more at: https://bit.ly/32EQA35.
Fire Agencies across King County are following a number of COVID-19 safety protocols to help protect patients and personnel as we continue to respond to emergency calls. If you see crew members in full protective gear, please know this is simply out of an abundance of caution. It should not be assumed that because you see firefighters respond with gloves, gowns, glasses and masks, that the patient they are treating has COVID-19. Confirmed cases will continue to be released by Public Health. Learn more about what we we’re doing to address COVID-19 at: https://bit.ly/32EQA35.
Tahoma and Kent schools keeps eyes on students and coronavirus cases
The Tahoma School District is constantly monitoring the coronavirus situation, according to Tahoma Spokesperson Kevin Patterson. All schools have remained open and no cases have been reported in the Tahoma area. The district has requested no outside groups use the district’s buildings for meetings to help ease the need for cleaning.
“We have suspended use of our schools by non-district groups, mainly as a way of reducing the use of cleaning supplies, which have become scarce,” Patterson said. “We are still cleaning schools but if we don’t have to clean after outside groups use schools, it helps stretch our cleaning supplies. We have placed strong emphasis on hygiene for students and staff, focusing on hand-washing and using a tissue or elbow to contain coughs and sneezes. We have reduced the number of large meetings or gatherings, at the suggestion of health officials. However, students still gather during lunch periods and we will continue group assemblies that are deemed necessary by principals.”
Custodians and maintenance staff worked through the weekend to do additional school cleaning along with additional cleaning twice a week to clean surfaces such as desks and counters along with doorknobs, stair rails and other high-contact surfaces that are cleaned each day.
The school board still plans to meet as usual.
“We have not seen any major attendance changes so far,” Patterson said. “Parents should follow our usual attendance procedures if they decide to keep students home; please contact the attendance office or main office to let us know and to make arrangements for getting assignments from teachers.”
The Kent School District (KSD) reopened it’s schools after closing Kentwood High School and Covington Elementary School for a couple of days last week while a high school student and an elementary school employee was tested for COVID-19. So far, there have been no positive cases of the novel coronavirus from KSD.
According to KSD’s website, if students miss school due to a parent or guardian’s concerns about virus exposure, the absence will be excused.
“As a parent or guardian, it is up to you to decide when to keep your student home due to a health concern. If your student does miss school due to your concerns about Coronavirus, the absence will be excused, we ask that you still report the absence to your school office,” the website states. “If we should have to close schools, make-up days will be added to the end of the school year. In the case of extended closure, we could apply for a state waiver for some of those days. We are also working with labor partners to develop a remote learning plan should a prolonged school closure due to COVID-19 be necessary. Our custodial staff is working very hard and has reprioritized their daily cleaning routines in all schools, focusing on disinfecting high touch surfaces and common areas. This may mean some custodial routines are delayed.”
The Covington Chamber rearranges upcoming event
The Covington Chamber of Commerce regularly hosts multiple events throughout the month, including some larger events such as April’s Covington Family Expo and Youth Fair. But with recent news of the novel virus and a lack of business in downtown, the Chamber has made significant changes to the upcoming event.
“Our local businesses are experiencing challenges from the impact of COVID-19,” a letter sent by the chambers Executive Director Jennifer Liggett states. “As businesses find creative ways to utilize their space/services to best bring in new revenue streams we are understandably seeing a decrease in vendor participation for the upcoming April 16th Covington Family Expo & Youth Fair. Out of an abundance of caution and in effort to best support the success of local business by freeing up schedules/commitments we are cancelling the scheduled Expo event. We will be in touch with those that have pre-registered and we look forward to seeing everyone at our Third Annual Fall Festival, September 19th 2020 at Real Life Church.”
The Youth Fair is still scheduled for April 16. Other upcoming events are still happening including the Chamber Luncheon on Thursday, March 12.
Liggett said the Covington economy has taken a hit the last few weeks while people self-quarantine or stay home to prevent the spread of viruses.
“A few members are looking at creative outlets for new revenue sources,” Liggett stated in an email to The Reporter. “Ristrettos is now doing ‘drive up’ family meals to go — so creative and popular — and other local business has events cancelling so less flowers are being ordered/catering and more.”
Some local businesses are even discussing raising prices due to a lack of sales and the cost of keeping up with supplies.
The local Communities in School Foundation is also cancelled its big fundraising event of the year.
“We are making the difficult decision to cancel our Annual fundraising event ‘Breakfast for the Kids 2020,’” a Communities in School press release states. “We are doing so out of caring and respect for the overall health of the community.”
The Kent Communities in School chapter typically raises $60,000 a year to support students from the annual breakfast. About half of that goals has been raised by sponsors and the group is hoping people will donate more online.
Those who wish to donate can send a check to save the 3 percent online fee. Checks can be mailed to Communities In Schools of Kent; PO Box 62; Kent, WA 98035. Others can donate at https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/SVbjGIHUfFxpai6rE5SxgA.
Food banks work to stay open and serve during outbreak
Both the Maple Valley Food Bank and the Covington Storehouse have remained open to clients this month, even while some food banks in surrounding cities have closed due to lack of donations or volunteers.
Storehouse spokesperson Cass Laney said they are staying open to serve clients.
“Currently we are taking extra safety precautions such as requiring all our clients to use hand sanitizer before entering the building, disinfecting after each shift and disinfecting carts after each use,” Laney said. “All volunteers are required to wear gloves and are now handling all food for our clients to limit the amount of people handling food. We are also limiting the number of people that can shop at one time. If clients are sick we ask that they not come and have someone come in their place. They can also wait in their car beforehand.”
Maple Valley Food Bank Program and Volunteer Coordinator Sigurros Welborn said his volunteers are also taking precautions to help prevent the spread of germs.
“We have our staff, volunteers and clients washing hands regularly. We are disinfecting all surfaces including shopping carts after each use. We are limiting what food we accept form our grocery rescue,” Welborn said. “All produced is being bagged up for clients to take. We are asking that if anyone is feeling sick to not come in for at least 14 days. For clients that are sick we are making arrangements for food to be boxed up for them.”
The outbreak has caused a dent in donations to many food banks as stores run out of supplies due to residents “panic shopping.”
“It is definitely affecting our donations. Local grocery stores are running low on food for shoppers, which means less food being donated,” Laney said. “Thankfully we still get food from larger organizations such as Sysco and US Foods, but we’ve seen a decrease in produce and dry goods.”