Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson on Sunday issued a stay-at-home order for residents, business owners and “others who work and recreate” in the city, effective at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, March 22.
“I have issued this order because we need to take more significant measures to safeguard Edmonds residents, workers and visitors during this critical period of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Nelson. said. “It is only with such extraordinary precautions that we can hope to staunch the spread of this virus and look forward to a return to normal in the not-too-distant future.”
The order came after an emergency city council meeting and unanimous 7-0 vote Sunday afternoon — the first that the council has conducted completely online in a virtual setting — that expanded the mayor’s emergency powers to declare such an order.
The order asks residents to stay home, “except for certain essential activities and work to provide essential business and government services, or perform essential public infrastructure construction.” Homeless individuals are not subject to the order.
The order includes a long list of “essential activities” that are excluded from the order:
▪ Errands to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor.
▪ Acquiring necessary services or supplies for you, your family or household members, such as getting food and supplies, pet food and supplies necessary for staying home. This can include curbside pick-up, delivery, take out or drive-thru food and beverage services. Please only purchase items you immediately need and do not stockpile.
▪ Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running, provided you keep at least 6 feet of distance between others.
▪ Caring for a family member in another household.
▪ Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, people with disabilities or other vulnerable persons.
Essential business and government services include, but are not limited to, the following:
▪ Health care operations, including all training and educational programs and home health workers.
▪ Essential infrastructure, including construction of housing (residential and mixed-use), industrial and commercial projects currently underway; and operation of public transportation and utilities.
▪ Businesses that supply products or services necessary to both maintain the functionality and/or safety of equipment, facilities, utilities, health care, national defense, all modes of transportation and critical supply chains used in other essential businesses.
▪ Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores.
▪ Food and beverage providers offering curbside pick up, delivery, take out or drive-thru services.
▪ Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities.
▪ Pharmacies, health care supply stores and health care facilities.
▪ Gas stations and auto repair facilities.
▪ Garbage collection.
▪ Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses.
▪ Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning.
▪ Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers.
▪ Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food and goods directly to residences.
▪ Child care facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work.
▪ Roles required for any essential business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll and similar activities.
The order also includes a provision for residents to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and prevention when conducting essential activities and services allowed under the activities listed above, including maintaining at least 6 feet from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or use hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes, not shaking hands and performing routine environmental cleaning.
Finally, employers in Edmonds that do not provide essential businesses or government services “should take all steps necessary for employees to work remotely from home to the extent possible,” the order says.
Violating the order is a misdemeanor and includes a maximum $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
“The key is that it’s temporary,” Nelson told councilmembers before they approved amendments to the city’s Disaster Preparation and Coordination ordinance, which gave him the authority to issue Sunday’s order.
Any emergency orders — including the one declared Sunday — have to go before the city council “as soon as practical,” Nelson said. In the case of the stay-at-home order, the council will be able to review and ratify it at the Tuesday, March 24 meeting.
“I believe that the circumstances that we are currently under right now warranted this really quick and rapid response,” Nelson said. It’s important to note, he said, that the updated ordinance allows for any future mayor “to be able to act quickly and these emergency powers are temporary, and they will have to be ratified by you.”
City Attorney Jeff Taraday explained that the amended ordinance will give any Edmonds mayor the authority to issue emergency orders consistent with the types of mayoral authority that other mayors have, including the cities of Seattle and Everett.
“Given what’s going on in the world right now, we just felt that this was an important time to visit that topic and to make sure the the city is adequately protected from whatever unforeseeable or foreseeable things might be around the corner,” Taraday said.
Overall, the ordinance as approved by the council Sunday gives the mayor the power to do the following:
- Impose a general curfew applicable either to the city as a whole or to a certain geographical area.
- Require any or all businesses to close and remain closed until further order.
- Require the closure of bars, taverns and other businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.
- Prohibit the sale of gasoline or “other liquid, flammable or combustible products” in any container other than in a vehicle’s gasoline tank.
- Close any public places, including streets, alleys, schools, parks, beaches and public buildings.
- Prohibit the carrying or possession of firearms “or any instrument which is capable of producing bodily harm and which is carried or possessed with intent to use the same to cause such harm.” Such order doesn’t apply to peace officers or military personnel engaged in the performance of their official duties.
- Request federal or state assistance in combating civil emergencies.
- Establish economic controls related to price stabilization, including wage and rent controls and allocation of food.
- Direct all public and private health facilities to provide emergency health and medical care for those who are injured or sick.
- Authorize the shutting off, restoration and operation of utility services.
- Provide for evacuation.
- Other orders that are “imminently necessary” for the protection of life and property.
Just because the mayor has the power to do all of those things doesn’t mean he would exercise them, and the idea is such powers would be applied when the circumstances warranted them, City Attorney Taraday explained.
Councilmember Vivian Olson said that while she supported the amended ordinance, she requested that the mayor take “minimum action” to protect the community. “The more restrictions there are, the more hardships there are as well,” she said.
Before approving the order, councilmembers had a lengthy discussion about the provision to close bars, taverns, liquor stores and other business establishments where alcoholic beverages are sold. Councilmember Luke Distelhorst proposed an amendment that would have included the mayor’s ability to close all establishments regulated by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, thus adding marijuana dispensaries to the list.
The reason for including cannabis, Distelhorst added, was “to address any intoxicants as related to the legal definitions.”
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis noted that some people use cannabis for anxiety, and “these are anxious times. I’m not ready to support it (the amendment) at this juncture.”
Councilmembers agreed they’d like to have more time study the matter of including cannabis, and it’s likely they will talk about it again at this Tuesday’s meeting. As result, Distelhorst agreed to withdraw his amendment.
At the end of the meeting, counclmembers encouraged the public to remain calm in the face of associated COVID-19 challenges.
Fraley-Monillas also reinforced the importance of social distancing, adding that during a drive around downtown Edmonds Sunday, she observed many people sitting in groups of three or four along Sunset Avenue and on the waterfront.
“We all need to understand we’re doing this not only for the benefit of ourselves, but of the greater community,” Councilmember Laura Johnson said.
— By Teresa Wippel