Earlier this month, the city of Mercer Island re-elevated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) back to Level 2 of partial activation in response to changing COVID-19 conditions. Previously, the city stood at monitoring phase Level 3, the lowest level of emergency operations.
“I’ve had to redirect more staff resources to the pandemic and to support our Emergency Operations Center,” City Manager Jessi Bon said in her report during the city council’s Sept. 21 virtual meeting. “Obviously, my main concern is continuing to prioritize essential services.”
Essential services consist of police and fire operations, roads and utilities, legal, communications, mental health services, Municipal Court (jury trials are suspended through the end of the year) and parks maintenance.
“Certainly during the pandemic, many people have been enjoying our parks, so we want to do what we can to keep up on that,” said Bon, adding that she and her team are ensuring that the city’s HR, IT, finance and facilities internal services are on point to support these essential functions
In the moderate response Level 2 activation, the Jennifer Franklin-led EOC is meeting weekly and closely monitoring the pandemic conditions while staying in direct contact with Public Health – Seattle & King County officials and working closely with personnel from partner cities, agencies and organizations, according to the city. The EOC will again be publishing monthly Situation Reports, which will be available on the city’s Let’s Talk pages at https://letstalk.mercergov.org/coronavirus.
Bon added that the city is tracking its emergency expenses and time and hopes to be eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and may be applying American Rescue Plan Act funds to the response.
Since nearly the entire parks maintenance team has been off work because of family commitments or COVID impacts, the city had to pull resources from other teams to cover that ground, Bon said. Some city staff team members have tested positive for COVID, and Bon said that in nearly all the cases, the person was vaccinated. Also, Bon added, some staffers have children under age 12 who have been exposed to COVID at their schools or day cares and some have been required to quarantine.
“We’re doing our best. Everyone’s pulling together to really make sure that our services are continuing to be delivered. We thank everyone for their patience right now. I know it continues to be a hard time, so thank you for being flexible and understanding,” she said.
Franklin and city economic development coordinator Sarah Bluvas are compiling information and have been in touch with local businesses regarding the proof-of-vaccination or negative tests within 72 hours order that will begin on Oct. 25.
The mandate will apply to indoor dining at restaurants, bars, gyms, arts and entertainment venues and sporting events, including the Mercer Island Community and Event Center that falls under the gym category with its sports activities.
“I know for the businesses that are working so hard in our community to keep going, this was just another requirement,” Bon said. “We’re here to support you businesses, those of you that are impacted by this new order. If there’s any questions you have, we’d be happy to reach out to Public Health to try to get those questions answered.”
To protect staff and community members, City Hall will remain closed to the public, and council, board and commission meetings will remain virtual.