Weekly Update: 03/15/2020

Posted on Categories Weekly Updates 1254

This Week

It’s now all-Coronavirus all-the-time. A lot of the City government is shut down or curtailed now (including the court.) Our City is taking COVID-19 very seriously (as I hope you are) and you can check here for good info from King County on the current status of the situation.

I’ll be meeting with City Manager Michael Matthias to get an update on what his Staff are doing to keep the City safe and functioning.

I’m also doing a certain amount of volunteering–basically giving people lifts to places now that so many things are shut down.

There are a number of routine meetings that are now being done via tele-conference (ironically one is on Emergency Preparedness) which I’ll talk about if and when anything interesting happens. 😀

Resources to help people to cope are starting to emerge, including food, transportation, unemployment benefits and small business loans. I’ll be posting specifics on my Facebook Page as they come in.

Last Week

Our City Council meeting (Agenda) was cancelled. I have no further information yet as to when meetings will resume. I’m trying to balance my concern for this pandemic with the need for oversight. Frankly, I’m a bit nervous letting the government run itself for too long without the full Council having a say. We’re way behind schedule on Committee meetings, partly due to the recent resignation/appointment process, but also because (sorry colleagues) not enough activity was going on at the committee-level  last year. We’ve got some catching up to do.

Thursday I had a brief chat with 30th State Reps. Mike Pellicciotti and Jesse Johnson–mainly to thank them (again) for their work on various pieces of legislation, including big things like HB1847, but smaller and very meaningful work like getting money to repair the Redondo Pier and getting funding for South King County Fire & Rescue to buy a new boat, which has been sorely needed for some time. By the way: Our 30th Legislators are unique in that they make a point of scheduling regular phone calls with City electeds while the Legislature is in session–which I totally appreciate.

Friday I donated blood. OK, not exactly part of the job. But I got a note from the WA Department Of Health telling electeds that the blood supply had dipped dangerously low–people are not donating due to the Corona Virus outbreak. They want me to assure you that it is completely safe to donate. Check out the Bloodworks Northwest web site to make an appointment.

The New Normal

When I was six, I got sick; I mean really sick. That took about two years to get past and I still have ‘issues’ as a result. I used to kinda laugh at how ‘trivial’ so many common diseases now are. For example, a typical case of meningitis can now be treated with a single injection. We’ve come a long way.

The COVID-19 response, as uneven as it has been thus far, is actually a big step forward.  As big a pain as it now seems, it’s going to save a lot of lives.  And my real point is that it’s going to be the new normal. We’re going to be doing ‘this’ every few years or so because it’s clear that such things are becoming much more common (Remember: there was a COVID 1-18, right?)

So we should think about what that means going forward. Back in the early ’60’s when I got sick–when people in general got sick–you just shrugged and dealt with it as best you could on an individual level. There was not a great understanding of how to prevent whole populations from coming down with Polio or Measles or whatever. If you got sick, that was really sad, but… society just kept limping along–which only got more people get sick.

Now, we have an understanding of how to ‘flatten the curve’; which is great. A whole bunch fewer people are going to get sick as a result of all the steps we’re now being asked to take. It really is progress. But to many of you it certainly doesn’t feel like progress. For most of us ‘progress’ means not impacting my daily life. We just haven’t had a lot of practice dealing with community-wide events like this. We don’t yet have the infra-structure to cope with schools, daycare, movies, sporting events, churches, basically everything being shut for a few days, weeks until things blow over.

The way that I’m thinking about it is kinda like a very, very long Tornado Drill–a thing which we don’t do in Puget Sound, but which is extremely common in other parts of the United States. Basically, you go into a basement, with some snacks, water and a radio and you wait for the twister to pass. You remain calm. You’re almost certainly not going to get hurt so long as you don’t act stupidly. Those things usually only last a few hours.

OK, so the trick for us is two-fold. First, as with the Tornado Drill not to panic. That’s actually  the easy part. People used to Tornado Drills have that part down.

The second one is a bit more tricky because this thing may last a good long while. How many of us even have one of those ’emergency preparedness’ kits we’re all supposed to have, right? Well, maybe this isn’t as extreme as an earthquake, but we do have to think about hunkering down for several weeks now. How many of us have plans for School. Work. Church. Shopping. Daycare (!)

Because here’s the thing: This is not the last time we’re gonna deal with this sort of thing. New viruses like this are springing up every couple of years now. Some turn out to be mild and some not so much. And if we’re smart, we’re gonna have to expect something like this to happen from time to time. Again, it’s the new normal.

So my thinking is not so much about ‘The dreaded COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020!’. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be fine. Annoyed as hell, but fine.  What I’m already thinking about is next time. There will likely be any number of  proposals to dramatically expand emergency spending when this is over. Some will be worthy and some will be totally cockamamie (remember after 9/11 how many cities were seriously thinking about buying tanks?) Yeah, I’m not voting for any of that.

What I hope we take away from this mostly is on a more personal level. We are all going to need to be prepared to do what we’re all doing now–which really is not all that onerous or scary, right? We’ll just need to do do it in a less frantic way (got enough toilet paper and ramen, guys? 😀 ) It’s just a very long Tornado Drill.

Currently the City is providing information and keeping essential services running. But going forward we will also need to a lot more. We’ll need to help individuals and businesses get services to help them stay on their feet. We’ll need to advocate for much better and above all consistent State and Federal policies so that when this sort of thing reccurs, we can quickly provide ways to get relief to individuals and businesses. We will have to learn to all be on the same page from the jump.

Please stay inside. Wash yer hands obsessively–with soap. Just to be clear: we’re not over-reacting. And it’s not the end of the world. But it is the new normal.