Reporter file photo

Reporter file photo

City cancels concert series due to increased COVID-19 risks

Fully-vaccinated person tests positive for virus after Aug. 19 event.

Due to increased COVID-19 risks and after a fully-vaccinated person who was present at a concert tested positive for the virus, the city has pulled the plug on the final two Mostly Music in the Park events.

Additionally, the reopening of City Hall to the public has been postponed until later this fall as a safety precaution for the risk of indoor virus transmission.

At the initial concert in the series on Aug. 19, the COVID-affected person followed public health recommendations and was masked up for the duration of the event, which took place outdoors under the pergola at Mercerdale Park in a socially distanced atmosphere and featured headliner The Olson Bros Band.

“City staff immediately consulted with King County Public Health officials today (Aug. 25) who established that the risk of exposure to other attendees was low, given the outdoor nature and wide-open seating arrangements at the concert,” the city said in its weekly newsletter.

The remaining two concerts in the three-part music series were scheduled for Aug. 26 and Sept. 2 at Mercerdale Park featuring headliners Dynamite Supreme and LeRoy Bell and His Only Friends, respectively.

The city is concerned of COVID risks since 300-plus people from different households traditionally attend the concerts, including many families with young children who are presently ineligible for vaccination. Also on the city’s concern list is that those children will begin attending in-person school classes on Sept. 1 and 3.

“City staff have been monitoring best practices from other cities alongside changing public health guidance, which ultimately helped inform the decision to cancel the concert series,” the newsletter noted. “The city remains committed to protecting the public’s health and safety by following quickly-changing protocols and looking ahead at trends and future needs.”

During its August recess from meetings, the city staff was set to begin preparations to reopen City Hall to the public on Sept. 7, according to City Manager Jessi Bon in July.

That process has been pushed back to “allow for continued social distancing for essential staff and protects the community from unnecessary exposure,” the city said, adding that most staffers have been working remotely since early 2020 and will stay that course in order to minimize contact. These operations include public meetings, permitting and bill payments.

City officials and emergency management staff, who are consulting with other cities and evaluating the risks for staff and the public to visit City Hall, plan to announce a new target reopening date sometime in September.

On the city council front, Bon said its Aug. 31 meeting would possibly be its final full remote gathering since the pandemic hit. However, council’s meetings will remain virtual for the time being, the city said. The city has hybrid meeting technology at its fingertips, but that process will be put on hold for now. When that technology comes into play, some councilmembers will attend meetings in person and others will participate remotely.

After last year’s Mostly Music in the Park was canceled due to the pandemic, the city brought it back to center stage for just three planned concerts this summer when vaccinations were up and COVID-19 cases were at record lows, Bon said.

“Canceling this event was an agonizing decision, but it’s not the time to let our guard down. We have to navigate the balance of what seems to make sense today and what the data and risks are telling us about tomorrow,” Bon said.

In Mercer Island School District Superintendent Donna Colosky and Deputy Superintendent Fred Rundle’s Aug. 9 letter to the school community, they wrote that Public Health – Seattle and King County data at that time noted that 92 percent of Mercer Island residents ages 12 and up were fully vaccinated and more than 95 percent of all residents had at least one dose.

The city noted in a press release that it continues to encourage all people to get vaccinated, mask up and follow the latest public health guidelines.

“Thank you to everyone who’s doing their part to protect themselves and those around them, and for their patience as we make these difficult decisions to navigate the Island’s safest path forward,” Bon said.

Following the city’s lead, nonprofit community support group Mercer Island Together canceled its free End of Summer Picnic, which was scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 28 at Mercerdale Park.

“Regrettably, given the heightened levels of COVID cases, the governor’s admonition and the precedent of Mercer Island city government cancellation of Mostly Music in the Park, out of an abundance of caution, we have reluctantly canceled the all-Island picnic,” the group said in a press release. “We will endeavor to reschedule at the earliest possible date.”

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