Mayor Jenny Durkan has issued a proclamation of civil emergency for Seattle because of the novel coronavirus's spread in the region. To date, there have been eight deaths in King County as a result of the virus and another additional death in Snohomish County. In all, 21 cases of the virus have been confirmed in this region.
Durkan's proclamation authorizes her to "exercise emergency powers."
Specific actions authorized in the proclamation, according to a press release from the mayor's office, "include the ability to bypass regulations and the steps normally required of city contracting and borrowing; the ability to forgo regulatory permits in order to site or implement facilities needed to address COVID-19, and the ability to immediately adjust the use and closure of city facilities and events as necessary to prevent continued spread of COVID-19."
That means the mayor can make decisions to address the emergency situation without having to jump through the typical bureaucratic hoops. Her declaration refers to these as "time-consuming procedures and formalities." Additionally, the declaration gives Mayor Durkan the authority to "immediately adjust the use and closure of City facilities and events as necessary to prevent continued spread of COVID-19."
Durkan previously issued a proclamation of emergency during last February's snowstorm. Other instances of a Seattle mayor issuing a proclamation of civil emergency include one from Mike McGinn in 2012, in response to May Day protests, and one from Paul Schell during the 1999 WTO riots.
In the coming days, the city will announce specific actions that will stem from today's proclamation. Tomorrow, at 2 p.m., there will be a special convening of the Seattle City Council's Public Safety and Human Services Committee during which the council will be briefed on the city's response to the virus.
The action from Durkan comes amid a wave of similar moves at the county and state levels.
King County Executive Dow Constantine issued his own proclamation of emergency on Monday. Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for Washington on Saturday. And the Washington State Legislature just unanimously passed a bill to get $100 million in funding to fight the coronavirus in the state.