Delivering a fourth, final — and very brief — State of the City address Monday evening, Mayor Jenny Durkan pitched an ambitious goal of making Seattle a national leader in COVID-19 vaccinations.
Durkan said she wants Seattle to be the first city to vaccinate 70% of its adults, a target she described as “the most daunting, difficult and important operation our city government has ever faced.”
Speaking from the Filipino Community of Seattle, Durkan said the Southeast Seattle community center will soon host a pop-up vaccination site — an example of the city’s efforts to prioritize communities of color, which have so far lagged behind whites in obtaining scarce vaccine doses.
After a bruising first term, Durkan announced in December she would not run for reelection this year. On Monday, she spoke for less than 10 minutes, delivering her address via video without the usual in-person audience of elected officials, dignitaries and guests. Past addresses have run closer to an hour and her 2018 address, as written, was nearly 5,000 words. This one was about 880.
For the most part, the mayor did not outline detailed new initiatives. She instead spoke in broad terms about the struggles of the past year, including masks, isolation and losing loved ones.
The pandemic, Durkan said, “amplified challenges we already had,” citing homelessness, public safety, the climate crisis and racial inequities in “every system.”
Durkan said her office will, in the coming weeks, implement plans to improve the “livability and safety” of downtown; open hundreds of new shelter and affordable housing spaces to bring homeless people off streets and out of parks; and invest nearly $100 million in the “health and resiliency” of Black, Indigenous and other communities of color to address historical disparities.
She made only passing reference to the ongoing debate over defunding Seattle’s Police Department, saying her plans will address “expanding alternatives to police responses.”
The mayor acknowledged her 70% vaccination goal depends on federal supplies of the vaccine, which are being ramped up by the administration of President Joe Biden.
If the doses come through, Durkan, said the city will be able to open, “hopefully” by spring, easily accessible vaccination centers “in every part of our city.” She mentioned downtown, Rainier Beach, West Seattle and multiple sites in North Seattle.
She credited the work of Seattle Fire Department teams that have already been working to vaccinate the most vulnerable people, even amid the recent snowstorm.
“They have provided more than 4,400 vaccinations for residents and workers at adult family homes, home health care workers and grocery workers, and elders in our hard-hit BIPOC communities,” Durkan said. “They are doing heroic work and are on track to vaccinate tens of thousands of Seattleites.”
Durkan urged Seattle residents to work together to wind down the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “I know our community is so tired. But we are so close.” She implored residents to continue physical distancing, avoid gatherings and wear masks. She urged residents to get vaccinated when eligible and to help family, friends and neighbors get appointments.
“I won’t sugarcoat it: we have a tough road ahead. But there is hope on the horizon,” she said.