Thurs. evening, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced additional steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Researchers are estimating that there are 1,100 active COVID-19 infections in our region. By early April, the region may see 25,000 people infected if no actions are taken. To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, The Seattle Public Library will close all Library (SPL) locations. Except for preschool programs and hygiene services, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) will cancel all programming, rentals, and permitted events, and close all community centers, pools, environmental learning centers, and all other recreation facilities to the public.
This announcement follows the State and County’s new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including a prohibition of events with more than 250 people, and a prohibition on events with less than 250 people, if they don’t meet public health guidance on social distancing and hygiene. All closures will take effect at 6 p.m. tomorrow, March 13, and will last until at least April 13. The City will be in continued contact with public health officials to evaluate our facilities beyond this timeline.
“We did not take this decision lightly. We know that our libraries and community centers serve as important neighborhood hubs and provide essential services to our residents. But we also know that given the high-volume of people who pass through our facilities each day, it would be extremely difficult to implement the mandatory public health guidance as it relates to social distancing,” said Durkan. “In the coming days and weeks, I expect that we will need to continue making difficult decisions like this one. We’re doing everything we can to continue City operations as possible, but ultimately, we must take necessary mitigation measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, especially to those individuals most at risk. If we fail to act, the consequences could be devastating.”
“Consistent with recommendations made by public health officials, the City’s decision to close community centers and libraries is based on both best available science and the need for unified action to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez. “I am committed to working with Mayor Durkan, Chief Librarian Turner and Superintendent Aguirre to protect the public from the coronavirus especially our elders and most vulnerable residents. Remaining unified as a community also means remaining calm, helping our fellow neighbors, and coming out stronger, more connected, and more resilient when this chapter is behind us.”
According to officials, many vulnerable populations, including people living unsheltered, rely on community centers and libraries to provide critical hygiene services. So, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) will continue the shower program for those in need at Delridge, Green Lake, Meadowbrook, Miller and Rainier community centers, and all SPR bathrooms and handwashing stations will remain open.
In addition, with the understanding the City’s preschool programs are critical for families in Seattle, the City will allow preschool programs in community centers to operate with the latest public heath guidance, and the department will evaluate the feasibility of continuing to keep these programs open. Because affordable and accessible childcare and preschool is critical for so many residents, especially as Seattle Public Schools close,SPR is also looking to create alternate programs for before and after school care. All facilities that remain open will continue to be cleaned in accordance with public health guidance.
“We support our Governor, County health agency, and Mayor in working to ensure the health of those most vulnerable in our community,” said Seattle Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Jesús Aguirre. “We recognize the impact that this closure will have on our residents and visitors, but it is critical that we support the health and safety of our communities.”
The Seattle Public Library (SPL) will continue to provide many digital services, such as e-books and e-audiobooks; streaming movies, TV and music services; free access to magazines and newspapers; and more. SPL’s ‘Ask Us’ reference question platform, which can be accessed online and or by phone, may experience some downtime as the Library works to enable staff to do this work from home. The Library is also extending loan periods during this time, and patrons do not need to return materials until SPL is back in full operation. SPL is also a fine-free library, so no patrons will incur late fines during this time.
“We are in the midst of unprecedented times and challenges and, while it is difficult to make the decision to close our libraries to respond to COVID-19, I know it is the right one for the health and safety of our public, staff and volunteers,” said Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner. “We encourage all cardholders to explore our rich collection of digital resources during this period of limited social contact and limited recreational options. We provide free access to music, movies, TV, newspapers, magazines and more. We will be looking at other creative ways to serve our community during this time, and we look forward to welcoming our patrons back into our buildings as soon as we can.”