Audit finds King County responded well to pandemic, but could have done better . Photo courtesy of CDC.

King County pandemic response was strong, but lessons to be learned for future emergencies

  • Staff report
  • Tuesday, July 13, 2021 12:32pm
  • Northwest

King County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was well-executed in some ways, despite difficult circumstances, but gaps remained in safety, and overall organization was lacking in some areas, a new audit released Tuesday found.

The report, prepared by the King County Auditor’s Office, reviewed employee safety, remote work, controls over federal emergency funding, customer service, furloughs, and voluntary separation.

Though many positive outcomes were found in the audit, the report also outlined several ways the county could improve its operations to be more successful in future emergencies.

Among the audit’s findings:

County leaders and staff took many actions to ensure county services continued under difficult circumstances and were responsive to real-time audit feedback about employee safety, customer service, and federal spending. The county can take what it learned during the pandemic to be more prepared for future emergencies.

While there was executive level guidance for safety, agencies and work groups were left to implement independently and there was not centralized oversight or coordination to ensure a consistent approach to safety.

Survey respondent feedback in fall 2020 reflected that employee experience and confidence in safety measures varied across the county. While employees in some agencies reacted more positively, others expressed serious concerns. For example, employees cited coworkers’ failure to wear masks or properly social distance in close-proximity work situations. Interviews with agency staff and safety documentation showed that there may have been a lack of specific protocols or steps taken in these areas to ensure safety practice were being implemented.

County locations or functions that required the participation of multiple branches of government or several agencies were more difficult settings to implement safety measures, potentially limiting risk reduction for involved employees.

The County issued some guidance and resources for employees in response to the inequitable impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and people of color but there were opportunities to fully gather data and monitor for ways to reduce equity impacts to employee safety during the pandemic.

While the county ultimately obtained the PPE it needed, there was a lack of coordination – especially early in the pandemic – that could have capitalized on existing resources, expertise and buying power, reducing duplication of efforts and frustrations experienced by various agencies and departments.

The report also included six recommendations ranging from improvements to safety protocols to central, structured oversight to ensure agencies and work groups all met the same standards. In addition, the Auditor’s Office published interim communications over the course of the pandemic to support the county in implementing improvements in real time.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

Abortion rights protesters fill all four corners of the intersection in front of the Everett Planned Parenthood in support of abortion rights on Saturday, July 9, 2022 (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
GOP cheered abortion ruling. Democrats responded by voting.

A swell of electoral support for Democrats pushed turnout higher in primary. Republicans look to adjust for November

Screenshot
Federal Way officer receives suspension for posting controversial TikTok video

Officer Breanna Straus was suspended pay for one shift.

Front of Silver Cloud Inn purchased in Redmond to serve as permanent supportive housing under the county’s Health Through Housing initiative. Photo by Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing
King County officials reflect on Health Through Housing criticisms and goals

Dow Constantine and Leo Flor uphold belief in the housing first approach.

Perseid meteor shower in August 2021. Photo courtesy of Nasa.gov/Bill Ingalls
Meteor showers light up August nights in the Pacific Northwest

Stargazers can track Perseids at sites around Washington state.

The League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County hosted a candidate forum between Leesa Manion and Jim Ferrell in race for King County Prosecutor on July 21 at the Renton Civic Theatre. Courtesy photo
King County prosecutor candidates discuss criminal justice issues facing the region

Jim Ferrell and Leesa Manion clash over restorative justice programs in the county.

Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control
State’s response to monkeypox led Seattle doctor to visit Canada for vaccine

As of Aug. 3, at least 166 people in Washington had tested positive for the monkeypox virus.

Families splash and play in the water at at Federal Way’s Town Square Park to cool off from a previous heatwave in the region. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Heatwave means mid-90s temperatures all week in Puget Sound region

Another heatwave is on its way toward the greater Seattle area, with… Continue reading

KCSO bug
KCSO issues SILVER alert for missing Shoreline man, 75

Harvey Page of Shoreline went missing July 21.

Christine Hendrickson shared her post-incarceration journey as part of a panel of speakers July 14 at the Kirkland Chamber Foundation’s 2022 Kirkland Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Symposium. This year’s program focused on workforce re-entry for previously incarcerated people and the barriers they face. Photo by Andy Hobbs/Sound Publishing
Previously incarcerated people struggle to find jobs in Washington

Trauma and the stigma of prison create barriers for those who are trying to reenter society and atone for past mistakes.

Washington’s Lottery 40th anniversary “Scratch from the Past” ticket. (Submitted photo)
40 years later: Lottery pays off for state. Has it for you?

Games generated $17.7 billion in sales, $2.4 billion for education and $10.5 billion in prizes.

Screenshot of Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) website. Visit www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/pandemic-ebt-p-ebt
Third round of Pandemic EBT to arrive in late July for eligible families

The DSHS benefits program assists school-aged children facing food insecurity.

Photo via Pexels
988 national suicide, crisis hotline to launch soon

The three-digit calling code goes live July 16.