King County is telling its employees to telecommute if they can, and moving meetings to Skype instead of holding them in the downtown Seattle courthouse.
The operational change was announced on March 3. All non-essential county in-person meetings that garner large groups will be cancelled through the end of March. The county will need to determine which meetings are essential, and limit the number of people present. Most essential and non-essential meetings that remain will be conducted over Skype or teleconference calls.
Employees who can telecommute to work are being encouraged to do so. The move comes amid the COVID-19 outbreak which has killed 10 in Washington state, and another in California.
County council member Kathy Lambert said staff from many departments are being redirected to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. This will affect county functions.
“We’re asking people to be patient, that things aren’t going to be as quick as normal,” Lambert said. “…Everyday things aren’t going to get priority as the pandemic now has the priority.”
The county’s online calendar will be updated to reflect which meetings will be held via Skype. There will be at least one more in-person county council meeting next week, where high-priority items will be addressed.
Lambert said county staff are so busy dealing with the outbreak that they are no longer doing individual briefings for members of the media as well as elected officials. She described the response as fluid, with staff responding as quickly as possible.
Lambert also encouraged people to stop shaking hands, saying it could spread the virus. Instead, she suggested people greet each other by waving or placing their hands over their hearts.