Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell will officially take over as mayor on New Year’s Day, but will not host a public inauguration due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases. Instead, he’s decided to have a smaller event Tuesday.
Harrell, who was elected in November to succeed Mayor Jenny Durkan, will be mayor officially at 12:01 a.m. New Year’s Day. Harrell will not celebrate the change of watch with a traditional inauguration event because of an influx of COVID cases.
“With rising COVID numbers, the mayor-elect has decided to forgo a large public event, and instead hold a ceremonial inauguration event with press and a few members of his team …,” Jamie Housen, communications director for Harrell, said Thursday.
According to Housen, Harrell was officially sworn in privately in his home last week.
The decision speaks to one of the primary challenges Harrell will face as mayor, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus has sent the number of new cases in the U.S. to a pandemic high.
Last week, King County saw a 195% increase in cases in seven days, averaging a record 1,586 infections per day.
Meanwhile, some Seattle test sites have seen surging positivity rates as high as 50%, compared with 20%-25% in previous peaks throughout the pandemic, driven by the highly contagious new variant.
Though much of the pomp and circumstance is missing from the transition, Harrell has been gearing up to take office since the first week of November, and has appointed a slew of top Cabinet officials ahead of taking office.