Mayor announces local COVID-19 emergency proclamation ending October 31

Need remains for continued diligence, attention to public health and well-being

September 26, 2022 - by Janice Keller, Communications Director

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood announced today he is lifting his proclamation of local emergency, first enacted in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, effective on October 31, 2022. The timing is intended to coincide with the expiration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s statewide emergency order, which ends the same day.

“This is an important step toward a greater sense of normalcy as we emerge from the most dire stages of COVID-19, but it is important to recognize the pandemic is not yet fully behind us,” Fleetwood said. “Our path to a successful recovery requires continued attention to our community’s health and well-being. Public health officials across the state and nation have stressed the need for continued diligence as we learn to live with and adapt our behaviors to the presence of the COVID-19 virus.”

“Let us recall the primary basis for the proclamation of local emergency in March 2020 was part of our extraordinary effort to protect public health and safety during rapidly evolving, unique and challenging circumstances,” he added. “COVID-19 was spreading rapidly, with no vaccine and a still-developing understanding of what would slow its spread. We were taking actions large and small to protect individuals and families, serve vulnerable populations, preserve our economic vitality, reduce demand on ICU capacity and health care workers, and save lives.”

Fleetwood announced the expiration of the local emergency ordinance during today’s (September 26, 2022) Bellingham City Council Committee of the Whole meeting. During that meeting, the City Council voted to resume meeting in person for its October 3, 2022, meeting.

Having the emergency order in place for more than 2.5 years allowed City officials to react quickly to rapidly changing conditions, commit resources where needed, and make adjustments to City services to protect public and employee health and safety. The order was amended and augmented with executive orders and Bellingham City Council ordinances in response to new circumstances during the course of the pandemic.

Fleetwood said COVID-19 vaccinations will remain a condition of employment for City employees and volunteers through an executive order that will remain in place once the proclamation of local emergency expires.

Lifting the proclamation of local emergency has several impacts, Fleetwood said, some of which will take additional evaluation and work between now and October 31 to ensure a smooth transition.

For example, as soon as the local emergency proclamation is lifted, the Bellingham City Council and all boards and commissions are required to host in-person public meetings. The state Open Public Meetings Act requires municipalities to provide in-person access to meetings while permitting members to participate via remote technologies. Fleetwood said additional planning is needed to address the staff and technology impacts of hosting ‘hybrid’ meetings for City Council and 25 advisory groups.

When the proclamation of local emergency is lifted on October 31, a Bellingham City Council ordinance granting hazard pay for some grocery workers is scheduled to end as well. In addition, City officials are working with operators of the Unity Village tiny home community to update its permit, which is tied to the proclamation of local emergency.

Media Contact

Janice Keller, Communications Director or (360) 778-8100


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