After being closed for more than a year to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Edmonds is aiming to reopen city buildings the week of July 12. Coordinating with that date, the Edmonds City Council is also looking to begin in-person council meetings that week.
City Council President Susan Paine said there are still many details to be worked out for in-person council meetings, not the least of which is ensuring there is technology to support “a hybrid option that uses both the in-person and virtual approaches.” Paine said she plans to discuss these ideas with Mayor Mike Nelson to ensure equipment is available for that purpose. Both the council and city administration “are committed to maintaining the ability to appear virtually at our council meetings, and we are looking at all of our options,” she said.
Guiding the city’s decision is Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement last month that he plans to reopen the state June 30. Paine noted that public access to the council chambers is subject to Phase 3 state reopening requirements, which is 50% capacity.
That raises the question of how the city will monitor council chambers capacity to ensure compliance. It’s possible someone will be hired for that task, Paine said.
Both the council and city administration are following guidance of state and local agencies in deciding when to reopen — and officials said that could impact the July 12 reopening date.
Paine emphasized that discussions on reopening issues are at this point preliminary, but added that “workplace and community safety are our top priorities.” One of the actions planned to facilitate that: Plexiglass barriers will be installed between councilmembers sitting on the council dais.
Still another question being discussed: Will the public be required to wear masks while attending council meetings? Paine said she doesn’t know the answer to that yet, and is hoping to research what other cities are doing as they reopen their council chambers. When asked if proof of vaccination could be required for members of the public attending meetings, Paine replied, “absolutely not.”
City employees, however, are required to wear masks on the job unless they provide documentation they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy that the city announced last week. City of Edmonds Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson said that proof of immunity to the disease won’t be an accepted alternative to vaccination, at least at this point. “The CDC has not yet issued any guidance on mask-wearing exemptions for person who can prove immunity to COVID-19, nor has there been any indication from health officials as to when non-vaccinated persons may go without a mask,” she said. “The city will continue to follow the guidance and direction from federal, state, and local health officials on this matter.”
— By Teresa Wippel