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Seattle extends park closure through Wednesday for smoke

The Space Needle is almost completely obscured by smoke from wildfires as a man talks on his phone at Gas Works Park on September 11, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

The city of Seattle announced Monday that it would extend a park closures through Wednesday. Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Friday that the city is closing all beaches, parks, and boat launches through Sunday over concerns of poor air quality due to smoke from wildfires in Washington, Oregon, and California.

The city said it will not issue citations, but is strongly encouraging residents to avoid outdoor activities and stay inside if they’re able until the air quality improves. Seattle has remained in the very unhealthy to hazardous range all weekend.

Greenlake webcam

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Waterfront webcam

“During this time, we really want people to know and understand how unhealthy the air is,” Durkan said during a Friday press conference.

Very unhealthy to hazardous air quality conditions across Washington

Seattle Public Library curbside pickup was suspended through the weekend, and the Seattle Center closed its public restrooms through the weekend due to the lack of air conditioning and filtration systems.

Seattle Public Utilities closed Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area through Sunday. Rattlesnake Ledge Trail remains closed until further notice.

Homeless shelters

Alongside King County Executive Dow Constantine, Durkan also announced that the city would be opening a new “healthy air center” in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood for anyone experiencing homelessness. The site opens Friday afternoon, and will be able to provide clean air and shelter for up to 80 people for 24 hours each day until Monday.

The city’s Navigation Team is conducting outreach on Friday to refer homeless individuals to the shelter. King County Metro will assist with transportation.

Public Health – Seattle & King County is advising the city to make sure the shelter meets air filtration guidance and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That guidance also includes social distancing and hygiene measures. Face coverings will be provided, as well as no-touch hand washing stations.

“We know that indoor gathering – even with the proper precautions – increases a person’s likelihood of catching or spreading the virus,” Mayor Durkan said. “However, the threat of unhealthy air quality has become so great that we are taking additional actions as a City, including closing our parks and standing up an additional emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness.”

Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health – Seattle & King County said moving indoors reduces the risk of smoke, but carries more risk from COVID-19 than living outdoors.

“For that reason, we are using a space with air handling intended for a COVID-19 isolation facility and implementing all the CDC recommendations for preventing COVID-19 transmission in cleaner air shelters and will monitor the health of the occupants,” Duchin said. “This is intended to be a short-term strategy.”

Check the Washington Department of Ecology Air Quality Map

Seattle is also operating two other shelters — Fisher Pavilion and the Exhibition Hall — that have the filtration systems needed to comply with smoke and COVID-19 public health protocols.

The city and county say they’re also reaching out to businesses –especially those that have outdoor dining, are homeless service providers, or are child care providers — to make sure they’re aware of the pubic health guidance.

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