More deaths of unsheltered people than prior winters
Early reports from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office indicated that this winter was even harder on people experiencing homelessness than winters past. According to the report, 29 people presumed to be homeless died in December — the highest count in one month since mid-2018.
The office reported 65 deaths of people experiencing homelessness from November 2020 through February 2021. The cause of death was “accident” for 33 of them, natural causes for 24, suicide for four, undetermined for one, fetal death for one and homicide for one. The office specifically attributed six of the deaths to hypothermia, but cautioned against drawing conclusions about how weather played a role.
Most of the deaths — 35 — occurred outdoors outside of any shelter and in an exposed area, such as a parking lot or sidewalk. Nine occurred in vehicles, 8 in a hospital, 6 in a residence and 4 in a hotel or motel.
Cities across the country have cited a higher-than-usual numbers of deaths of unsheltered people in 2020, according to The Seattle Times. It is believed that the rise in numbers is a combination of pandemic-related factors, such as increased stress, isolation, behavioral health issues and bad weather. Also due to the pandemic, facilities such as libraries and public restrooms have been closed, eliminating much of the respite sought on inclement days.
King County’s annual Count Us In estimated that 5,578 people were living outside or in other places not designed for human habitation on the night of the count in January 2020. The total was higher for people who were experiencing homelessness but had shelter that night: 11,751 people. These counts are widely considered to be undercounts. Count Us In was canceled for 2021 because of the pandemic.
Fans in the stands for the first time after a long year
Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery plan, put into effect Jan. 11, sports venues can reopen at 25% capacity, which means that about 9,000 fans will be allowed at the Mariner’s April 1 opener game against San Francisco.
The same percentage will apply for the Sounders, Reign and other games at facilities with permanent seating. Masks and distancing will still be required, and season ticket members will have priority to reserve seats ahead of single-game buyers.
On April 15, conditions will be re-evaluated to consider a further increase in seating capacity. In-person viewership will likely increase as more vaccines are made available to the public.
On March 24, the Washington Department of Public Health announced that everyone 16 and older in the state could get in line for a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.
Read more in the Mar. 31 - Apr. 6, 2021 issue.