Yesterday afternoon, the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) and the Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC) announced the Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center (301 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109) will be activated as a preventative measure to best align with Public Health Seattle-King County guidance (PHSKC) in response to COVID-19. The Exhibition Hall will open TODAY, March 9. At this time, there are no known COVID-19 cases at the DESC Main Shelter or any other Seattle shelter.
This announcement is one of many steps City and County officials are taking to address COVID-19, with more announcements likely in the future. The Exhibition Hall is most often activated during severe weather events and is part of the City’s overall public health response planning.
The Exhibition Hall shelter will be available for agency-selected DESC Main Shelter clients—one of the busiest and largest overnight shelters in Seattle serving a high number of vulnerable individuals—in an effort to limit potential COVID-19 exposure. Some individuals from DESC’s Queen Anne shelter may be moved as well. DESC is identifying male clients that can be served at the Exhibition Hall, which will accommodate people that are relatively healthy and able to access services independently. Additionally, the City is taking steps to ensure sanitation and hygiene standards at Seattle shelters are in alignment with updated recommendations from the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) and PHSKC.
DESC’s Main Shelter accommodates 260 individuals, with Queen Anne shelter serving 100 people. Both are close-quarter congregate settings. By pre-preemptively opening the Exhibition Hall, the DESC shelter population would be temporarily lowered, with 100 individuals moving to the Exhibition Hall. DESC has also identified their most vulnerable clients at risk for COVID-19 and found new temporary accommodations, off-site from their shelters and Exhibition Hall, for these clients.
The City will continue to monitor high capacity shelters to determine if similar steps are needed to ensure the health and safety of people staying in shelters.
Exhibition Hall Operations
The City plans to operate Exhibition Hall shelter through at least March 23, 2020. DESC will operate the shelter and will transport clients, along with their possessions and pets, to the Exhibition Hall shelter Monday, March 9. Exhibition Hall has ample floor area to allow for safe social distancing and includes restroom access. The City will provide hygiene and sanitation supplies, and funding for meals. The City is partnering with PHSKC for medical services at the site to help the program maintain the same level of medical support clients received by DESC at the Main Shelter.
There are no further impacts to Seattle Center at this time, but more steps to prevent and respond to the impacts from COVID-19 are possible in the days and weeks ahead.
Daily coordination and response efforts to COVID-19 have continued over the weekend. PHSKC offered updated guidance for safe shelter operation on Saturday, March 8. This announcement to open the Exhibition Hall to DESC clients is in direct alignment with PHSKC recommendations. The rapid opening of the Exhibition Hall was made possible through the partnership between DESC, King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), PHSKC, HSD, Seattle Center, City of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and City’s Finance and Administrative Services Department.
Supporting our agencies through this crisis is a priority of the City. To that end, the City recently completed a large order of cleaning supplies, through OEM’s Emergency Operations Center, for service providers and is working with DCHS to distribute these materials to providers next week.
The opening of Exhibition Hall comes days after the City announced the expansion of shelter across Seattle. This expansion in shelter resources is to increase capacity for Seattle’s vulnerable unsheltered populations, which are at elevated risks from public health concerns, including infectious diseases. Currently, the City does not expect any of these sites to be for quarantine or isolation of individuals recovering from COVID-19. The City is working with PHSKC to determine medical needs and agency support required to safely operate these new resources in relation to COVID-19.
Where to get the most up-to-date public health information
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DOH, and PHSKC have issued specific guidance to help communities and businesses prepare. You can find guidance for the general public, schools, workplaces and employers, travelers and health care professionals as well as a more detailed Q&A here.