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Update: Continuing to Expand Access to Hygiene Resources and Deploying Rapid Response Teams

Last week, the City of Seattle and The Seattle Public Library (SPL) announced the re-opening of restrooms at five library locations, providing additional vital hygiene resources to people living unsheltered. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the City continues to increase access to hygiene facilities.
image of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Last week, the City of Seattle and The Seattle Public Library (SPL) announced the re-opening of restrooms at five library locations, providing additional vital hygiene resources to people living unsheltered. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the City continues to increase access to hygiene facilities and work in partnership with Public Health  –  Seattle & King County to interrupt COVID-19 transmission among those experiencing homelessness.  

More Re-Opened Restroom Facilities

The restrooms at the following Library locations will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday:  

  • Ballard Branch, 5614 22nd Ave. N.W. 
  • Beacon Hill Branch, 2821 Beacon Ave. S.  
  • University Branch, 5009 Roosevelt Way N.E. 
  • Capitol Hill Branch, 425 Harvard Ave. E. 
  • Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave. 

No other services will be offered in those buildings when the restrooms are open. Locations will be staffed with security personnel, custodial workers, and libraries staff. To help prevent further spread of COVID-19, Library branches will employ social distancing protocols, ask patrons to complete a brief COVID-19 health screener prior to entering the building, and will limit the number of individuals permitted in the building for restroom use at a time. The restrooms will be regularly cleaned in accordance with guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County.  

We are living through an unprecedented time and over the past weeks we have worked to aggressively stand up resources to support our unsheltered neighbors. Our city employees are supportive, taking on positions in new shelter spaces, childcare facilities, food delivery and more. I am grateful to lead this generous City with the best employees, who continue to giveback to our residents most in need during times of crisis. We will continue to build on these resources to keep all of Seattle’s communities safe.

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan

Rapid Response in Homeless Shelters Can Help Limit Spread of COVID-19

People who cannot safely self-isolate at home usually have less access to the resources needed to stay healthy, a challenge exacerbated by the current pandemic. For this reason, preventing and slowing the spread of COVID-19 within people living homeless continues to be a high priority in our pandemic response.

The COVID-19 homelessness response is a collaboration between Public Health, King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) and the City of Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) working closely with homeless service providers. This includes shelters, day centers, permanent supportive housing sites, health care providers, jail release coordination, outreach workers, nurses in shelters and permanent supportive housing. We’re grateful to the many homeless services and behavioral health staff and providers who are essential workers at this time.

Starting early in the outbreak in King County, Public Health worked with homeless services providers to give guidance to prevent outbreaks before there were cases. Since that time, we have continued to provide information on infection control and prevention in briefings to 200+ providers each week.

We’ve also deployed clinical support teams to homeless services sites to provide guidance on sanitation and hygiene as well as recommended spacing in facilities. These teams also help to coordinate needed disinfection and hygiene supplies through a centralized order and distribution process.

Establishing a National Model for Containing the Spread of COVID-19

Two research articles published on April 22 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe how multi-disciplinary teams deployed by Public Health are helping homeless shelters to protect their residents and staff.

Public Health deploys rapid response teams to homeless service sites where there is a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 or a suspected cluster based on people with symptoms of COVID-19. These multi-disciplinary teams assess the level of current illness, assess the risk of further contagion, and connect service providers and residents with resources to identify illness and prevent further spread.

Each of these teams has an environmental health staff person who assesses the facility and provides recommendations to reduce risk, such as procedures to support adequate social distancing and infection control measures. In addition, clinical team members provide education on COVID-19, screen residents and staff for symptoms, facilitate testing of exposed residents and staff, provide access to resources such as thermometers and surgical masks, and make referrals to the county’s Isolation and Quarantine facilities and Assessment and Recovery Centers.

For additional testing, a separate Mobile Assessment Team or testing team from a partner organization is available to deploy to sites, based on the specific needs at each location. In the past month, approximately 1,500 residents and staff have been tested at facilities that have had at least one positive case of COVID-19.

Since February, Public Health has been proactively reaching out to sites without any confirmed or suspected illnesses, providing technical advice on infection control and social distancing. These assessments support facilities in accessing hygiene supplies such as wipes, masks and cleaning products through a shared warehouse ordering process.

For details on King County’s coordinated response to limit the harm of COVID-19 among people living homeless, see “Action Steps: Supporting King County residents experiencing homelessness.”