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Woodward outlines city response to new COVID-19 restrictions, emphasizes small business support

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 21, 2020

Mayor Nadine Woodward speaks during a virtual press conference on Friday. 
Mayor Nadine Woodward speaks during a virtual press conference on Friday. 

In light of new COVID-19 restrictions, the city of Spokane is scrambling to save some of its holiday traditions – and start some new ones.

Mayor Nadine Woodward announced plans on Friday that aim to support local businesses, offer festive respite for lockdown-weary residents, and encourage public compliance with health measures.

“We know that people are hurting in our community, that the virus has many and extreme risks of severe health impacts, but also significant economic impacts,” Woodward said. “This can not be overemphasized, though, that public health has to come first.”

The city will launch a new weekly indoor and outdoor market at the U.S. Pavilion every Wednesday in December and January, featuring nearly 20 local vendors and two food trucks. Vendors will be dispersed between the outdoor central plaza, the indoor Sky Room and indoor main lobby.

The city also is working with local health officials to win clearance for a plan to open the Numerica Skate Ribbon in compliance with COVID-19 protocols, including limited capacity and online ticketing to reduce crowding.

While she encouraged residents to enjoy COVID-compliant festivities and support local businesses, Woodward implored people to adhere to public health guidelines. That means masking up, reducing in-home gatherings, washing hands, and staying home when you’re not feeling well, Woodward said.

“We need to do everything we can to support the health of our community and the economic livelihood of our community,” Woodward said.

Many of Spokane’s favorite winter activities will continue, but will likely look different than in years past.

The annual tree-lighting ceremony in Riverfront Park will still take place on Nov. 27, but will be broadcast virtually. The annual light show at Manito Park can’t occur inside this year, but officials hope to announce a drive-in version soon.

If approved, the Skate Ribbon will include visual cues for social distancing. Skaters will buy their ticket online ahead of time, securing one hour on the ice. Much like a tee time at a golf course, skaters will enter and exit the ribbon in 15-minute increments.

“We’re going above and beyond,” said Garrett Jones, the city’s Parks director.

The city hopes to make a decision on the skate ribbon before Thanksgiving and announce an opening date soon, Jones added.

The city has learned, through the farmers market in Kendall Yards and drive-in Fourth of July Fireworks, that events can be organized in a safe manner during the pandemic, Woodward said.

Woodward’s administration has also coalesced its efforts around small businesses leading up to the holidays.

“They need our help in communicating to the community and to customers that they are following public health guidelines, and we need to make sure that people know that they can safely go to our businesses and use online, curbside, and in-store options,” Woodward said.

The city has sent a survey to 9,000 local businesses to learn more about what they need. But Woodward has already heard clearly that businesses need a financial lifeline, and she will lean on Spokane’s congressional delegation to take action.

Particularly, Woodward said businesses are hoping for another round of funding for the Payroll Protection Program, the guidelines for which should ensure money is available as a grant, not a loan.

“What our businesses need right now are those grants. I think expecting them to go into any further debt with a loan to keep their business open is tough,” Woodward said. “We need some more of that type of stimulus relief from Congress.”

The city will continue to offer 10-minute curbside pick-up parking spots downtown, and could designate more if businesses request it.

The city will also designate the next four Saturdays as “Small Business Saturday.”

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