Make your nominations for Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards 

Nominations are now open for the Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards  to recognize individual employees and workgroups whose innovations and improvements are delivering excellence for our customers, our organization, and our region. 

This year, we will honor Executive branch employees and teams for their exceptional contributions in leadership, innovation, and Lean maturity in the past 12 months. We have three award categories: Innovation awards for Cost, Equity and social justice, People, Service, and Sustainability; Leadership Excellence awards for people leaders and individual contributors; and the Road to Excellence awards for divisions that achieve one of three levels of progress in the Lean Maturity Model

The nomination period is now open through February 22, and anyone can nominate individual Executive branch employees or teams for the Innovation and Leadership Excellence Awards. Please look back over the past year and make your nominations now while 2021 projects are still fresh in mind. You may review the nomination criteria here.   

Thank you for helping us recognize the successes and accomplishments of our colleagues – individually and collectively. 

At-home COVID-19 tests now covered by your medical plan

Federal guidelines were released last week that require all health plans to pay for FDA-approved over-the-counter (OTC) at-home COVID-19 tests purchased on or after Jan. 15, 2022.

If you’re covered by a King County employee medical plan, see the information below about how to get reimbursed. The processes are still being worked out by the health plans, and plans are working to obtain adequate supplies as soon as possible. For now, be sure to save your receipts for at-home COVID-19 tests purchased on or after Jan. 15, 2022.

For SmartCare (Kaiser Permanente) members:

Mail a Member Reimbursement Form and your receipt(s) to Kaiser Permanente. Visit Kaiser’s COVID-19 testing web page for up-to-date information. You can also schedule an in-person COVID-19 test at a Kaiser Permanente facility, if medically appropriate.

For KingCare and KingCare Select (Regence/CVS) members:

CVS, the pharmacy benefit manager for Regence plans, is currently developing its process with network pharmacies to directly bill CVS for at-home COVID-19 tests, but it’s not complete. If your local pharmacy has COVID-19 tests available, you may be able to get them at no cost. If the pharmacy can’t direct bill, you’ll need to buy the test and submit a claim for reimbursement to CVS online or through the CVS app. If you need help, call CVS at 800-552-8159. Have your CVS member ID card handy. The King County group ID number is 0385.

For more information, see the At-home COVID-19 tests FAQ and go to How to get your At-Home Over-The-Counter COVID-19 Test for Free. More information will be shared with employees as it becomes available.

Flood control to Major Tom: River and Floodplain Management Section keep King County high and dry

The heavy rains and melting snows have brought upon King County its annual river flooding season. As the most common winter weather occurrence, flooding is a danger in both rural and urban areas. King County’s River and Floodplain Management Section (RFMS) within the Water and Land Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) works to overcome these flooding challenges and educate the public about safety.

Pictured: From left, Capital Project Manager Stella Torres and Engineer Heather McPherson

Capital Project Manager Stella Torres and Engineer Heather McPherson shared about their work with this team, and how important it is to be prepared. Stella has been with King County since August 2017. Her work includes overseeing the implementation of capital improvement projects from design through construction, including leading interdisciplinary teams in construction of infrastructure to reduce risk of flooding and erosion, and conducting stakeholder and community outreach to garner support and address concerns. Heather has been with RFMS since February 2019 and helps to design and implement projects to repair damaged levees and revetments on rivers, while improving riverbank habitat. She also inspects facilities, creates maps, works with permitting agencies, and coordinates with her team to consider stakeholder needs.

The nature of their work requires both women to be outside in a variety of locations, based on project sites and flood patrol routes. The work can be challenging, with reconciling many interests and beliefs about how rivers and floodplains should be managed, juggling multiple projects and priorities, and potential overnight flood patrol shifts. The challenges are outweighed by the positives though, with each woman explaining what about this work is special to her.

“I enjoy the consistent fieldwork opportunities and working on a team that cares about each other, the project outcomes, the communities we impact, and the ecosystems we affect,” said Heather. “It’s great to have a variety of project sites and flood patrol routes so there’s opportunities to work on rivers throughout the county.”

Pictured: Capital Projects Manager Stella Torres out in the field.

Stella also agrees. “I love the problem-solving nature of my work,” she said. “I also love getting to work in and around rivers. Rivers are incredibly complex ecosystems.”

“Humans have gathered around rivers from the beginning of human history to make use of their natural resources and I find it rewarding to do work around these natural features that are a hugely important part of life for humans and animals,” she added.

Heather and Stella explain how being “flood ready” requires the RFMS team to be proactive and stay ahead of weather forecasts that indicate potentially dangerous levels of flooding from October through April. The team has a variety of trainings and tools available to them, as well as knowledgeable colleagues in the River and Floodplain Management Section who support the Flood Patrol and Flood Warning Center programs.

“They are super on top of monitoring weather events and do their best to give us a heads up,” said Heather. “It often seems we have large flood events near the holidays so being mentally prepared and having gear ready if we get called for a flood patrol shift is important.”

“The staff help keep people safe and prepared by operating the Flood Warning Center, which maintains a 24-hour line of communication between King County personnel and members of the public to provide assistance during flooding,” said Stella.

Pictured: The icon for the KC Flood mobile app.

In addition to the Flood Warning Center, available at 206-296-8200 or 800-945-9263, the public can also access flood information through KC Flood, a mobile app available to both employees and the public. Each year, the King County Flood Control District also updates their “Be Flood Ready” print brochure, available in 21 languages as a PDF online at www.kingcounty.gov/PrepareForFlooding or in print, by request.

“We have a robust system in place for getting out warnings of dangerous levels of flooding to vulnerable communities through our website, use of apps and informational brochures,” adds Stella.

Stella and Heather share how it is necessary for King County to prioritize flood risk reduction programs to ensure a good quality of life for residents and the region overall.

“Damage to people, property and important infrastructure due to flooding is costly,” said Stella. “It’s important in this region that experiences frequent flooding to prioritize this work and be prepared in order to save lives, mitigate risks and reduce spending on damage to infrastructure.”

Pictured: Engineer Heather McPherson at the upstream side of the Black River Pump Station, a flood control facility.

“It’s important we do this work and prepare for flooding because of climate change, aging infrastructure, and equity – ensuring everyone living in or near flood plains has the resources needed, knows how to prepare, is aware of risks, and feels empowered,” Heather adds.

Because flood management and preparedness cannot be accomplished by a single division or work group alone, it is also critical that King County employees know about these efforts, and how they are connected to it. Various departments and divisions collaborate with the RFMS group to provide the wide range of services required to respond quickly to flooding and mitigate flood risk.

“A majority of the work we do in the River and Floodplain Management Section, as a service provider to the King County Flood Control District, requires collaboration across divisions and departments,” said Stella. “Support from King County’s Roads Division, Emergency Management Services, and many other departments is key.”

“We want to help make others aware that flood resources exist, especially for employees that might work or communicate with people living in floodplains or who are new to the area,” said Heather. “And the interconnectedness of King County policies, missions, and department work – where our actions may affect other actions and vice versa – are opportunities to provide more benefits for the community.”

For more information about King County flood services, visit www.kingcounty.gov/FloodServices. To see current flood conditions, sign up for flood alerts, or download the app, visit www.kingcounty.gov/Flood. To learn more about the work Stella, Heather, and other King County employees in the Water and Land Resources Division are doing, read The Downstream Blog , follow King County DNRP on Twitter at @KCDNRP, or on Facebook at @KingCountyDNRP.

Changes to Temporary COVID-19 Personnel Policy

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently shortened the recommended time for isolation of the public when infected with COVID-19. It is now recommended that people with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days (instead of 10) if they are asymptomatic. If they continue to be asymptomatic or their symptoms are improving, and they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, they can come out of isolation after 5 days and return to work. 

Additionally, the guidance has changed for those who are exposed to COVID-19 and must quarantine. The state Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County have likewise changed their guidance. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of transmissions occur early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. 

Based on the new guidance, the county has updated the Temporary COVID-19 Personnel Policy for Executive branch employees to clarify which employees must be out of the workplace during this time and has reduced the required time away from 10 to 5 days. 

What’s changed in the Temporary COVID-19 Personnel Policy

A more concise “close contact” definition.

The addition of people who were “recently pregnant” to the list of people who may be at high risk.

Updates to Which Employees Must be Out of the Workplace During This Time, including: 

  • Reducing the number of days that an employee must be out of the workplace from a minimum of 10 days to 5 days, when:
    • The employee has had symptoms, if the symptoms are improving and they are fever-fee for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
    • The employee tests positive and is asymptomatic.
    • The employee tests positive and has or develops symptoms. This again requires that symptoms are improving, and that they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. 
    • The employee is not fully vaccinated, has had close contact with someone with COVID and is asymptomatic (this doesn’t apply to first responders or employees who have had a confirmed case of COVID within the last 90 days). 
  • No longer requiring employees to be out of the workplace following domestic or international travel.

Updates to the COVID Leave section, including:

  • Making clear that COVID Leave can be used for one shift per vaccination (including booster shots) for employees who are unable to work due to side effects; and
  • Adding COVID Leave cannot be used to obtain a COVID test. Employees may use sick leave for testing.  

Review the updated policy here.

Kids in need get a chance to Shop with a Cop

From Woodinville to Covington and locations in between, groups of kids got to experience some holiday cheer thanks to dedicated members of the King County Sheriff’s Office and the support of various community organizations. Shop with a Cop is a program that takes place across the nation during the holidays and locally is an opportunity for law enforcement to connect with the community.

Photo by Ben VanHouten, courtesy of the Seattle Mariners

The common perception is that when an officer shows up in a neighborhood or at a business it’s because of a disturbance or a traffic accident, or some other adverse activity that’s taken place. An event like lets the public see law enforcement in a way that creates a positive image and memories for the children. 

While the City of Covington office has been hosting Shop with a Cop for many years, it was reinstated in the Skyway community after about 20 years. “I participated in this program in Detroit,” said recent transplant Joshua Storks-Sayles, the Storefront Deputy Sheriff for Skyway. His role as a community liaison is to interact with businesses, schools, and organizations to build positive relationships, from mentoring young people to leading neighborhood projects. They recently held a coat drive and handed out 200 coats, mostly to youth.

“There’s a lot of tension in black and brown communities,” he continued, “Even as a black officer, breaking down barriers starts with kids. These types of events go a long way to building trust,” because they get to see an officer as a normal person who “likes video games, cracking jokes and laughing.”

Photo by Ben VanHouten, courtesy of the Seattle Mariners

Officer Storks-Sayles worked with Alajawan’s Hands foundation and the Black Equality Committee to secure donations from local residents, busines owners and the Walmart Local Community Grant. With the help of area schools and the Creston Point and Green Tree apartments, they identified about 70 children who were given an opportunity to go shopping with an officer at the Renton Walmart Supercenter.

“Besides the connection with officers, students take away key lessons such as financial literacy and budgeting, decision making, and teamwork while shopping,” Storks-Sayles added. For example, families with multiple children used “critical decision-making to put their budgets together for an item that can be used between them all.”

Bringing back a holiday tradition

Last year, the City of Burien and City of SeaTac officers wanted to implement the Shop with a Cop locally, but because of the pandemic “we settled for a drive-through event,” according to Chad Mulligan, Administrative Sergeant for SeaTac office. “This year we got to host a traditional Shop with a Cop where kids show up with families to the Burien Fred Meyers to meet with an officer, go shopping, and have a photo taken with them.”

Coordinating for those locations are Community Service Officers Michiko Wilson, from the Burien office and Regina Burke out of the SeaTac office. Besides working with the local Rotary for donations, they also arrange for volunteers and solicit recommendations for the participants. The children whose names get submitted are identified by local schools and charities, and sometimes officers themselves who have met the kids while in the line of duty.

There were 25 kids from Burien and 25 from SeaTac, plus another 10 who were displaced because of the Hanover Apartment fire. “Those 60 kids are going to have a memory that is unique to them, getting to shop with an officer,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen officers spend their own money to help people, and they don’t ask for recognition. They’re out there on their days off, before or after their shift helping people.”

“Hopefully the public will recognize they’re doing a lot that is positive in the community,” Wilson added.

Spotlight on King County Regional Veterans Court Mentor Program

By Troy Brown, Communication Manager, King County District Court

The King County Regional Veterans Court (RVC) seeks to increase effective cooperation between federal, state and local veterans’ service agencies and the criminal justice system. The RVC’s Mentor Program is a key part of the support available to help veterans successfully complete the RVC requirements.

“Veterans often find it hard to talk to others who are not veterans, or to ask for help,” says Terrell Carrington, RVC Mentor Program Coordinator for King County District Court, and a U.S. Army veteran himself. “The RVC Mentor Program connects participants with someone who can relate to their past experiences. A mentor can help program participants on the road to recovery, whether it is offering encouraging words, showing up for court hearings, or assisting in finding resources, when needed.”

Someone who is there for the vet

“The most important thing a mentor does for RVC participants is just being there,” says Terrell. “They show the veteran that their efforts are not going unnoticed, and continuously support their recovery.”

“One way I think about a veteran mentor is similar to a personal trainer at the gym,” adds Callista Welbaum, Therapeutic Courts Manager for District Court. “When you’re working on your own goals, it’s really helpful to have someone with lived experience who has been there and can be a support – having someone come along side you is incredibly powerful!”

Kate Tramontana, RVC Coordinator for District Court notes, “Most of our participants who have utilized mentors build lasting relationships with them, and that relationship doesn’t end when the participant leaves our program.”

RVC Mentor Coordinator’s role

Terrell Carrington, RVC Mentor Program Coordinator, joined District Court with eight years in the military and a degree in social and human services. “When I realized this position was available, I jumped on it!” he says. “I wanted to be part of the support and to give back to my veteran brothers and sisters.”

Although Terrell’s work focuses on recruiting mentors and connecting RVC participants with a mentor who is well-suited to each person’s background, Callista adds there are additional key aspects to the role: “Beyond his direct support to veterans, in order to get more mentors, Terrell ends up talking a lot about RVC in general to many people. He is like our own RVC ambassador, which helps build support for the court.”

As a veteran himself, Terrell understands the difficulties many vets experience after serving in the military. “I have been on the good side and the bad side,” he says. “I know that trying to adjust from the “dress-right-dress” environment to civilian life is tough. I fought my demons after my military separation and had to do it without support, so I know how difficult it is.”

What people might not know about RVC

When asked about misperceptions the public might have about RVC, Kate mentions several. “One is that all of our RVC participants are males,” she says.  “While we do have mostly males in this program, we also serve female veterans.”

Kate also notes that some people might think that participating in a therapeutic court such as RVC is the “easy way out” for defendants to get out of serving jail time. “In reality, participating in a therapeutic court is more difficult than possibly just serving jail time in that it requires participants to do quite a lot as part of their engagement with treatment, probation and other court-imposed requirements.  Most folks are on probation for two years, and full compliance for that entire time can be challenging.”

Making a real difference in vet’s lives

The RVC Team often hears from vets how much the program helped them. One example is Mr. Bishop, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He was diagnosed with cancer in the early 2000s, and his wife of 46 years died in 2015. “I kind of went off the deep end after that,” he said in a 2019 interview with Q13 News. “I was really down and out and got in trouble with the law.” He credited his participation in the court with helping him have “the strength to keep my health up;” He graduated from RVC in early 2021. Watch his story and see more about RVC on Q13: “King County helps eligible veterans in criminal justice system get their lives back on track.”

Click to learn more about Regional Veterans Court.

Reminder on measures to reduce spread of COVID-19

With the rapid rise in cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, employees are reminded that several measures remain in place to slow the spread of the virus:

  • Operations that require employees to be onsite will have KN95 or N95 masks available for all employees. Find out more about using these masks in this Public Health article on improving the quality and fit of your mask
  • Employees who are currently telecommuting should continue to do so where possible and not go into the office unless necessary and approved by their supervisor.
  • Non-essential in-person gatherings should be canceled until further notice. Employees should work with supervisors and use good judgment about which meetings should continue to be conducted in person and limit the number of people present where possible. Conduct meetings using Teams, Zoom or teleconferencing where practical.
  • In-person customer services that are currently suspended will remain so, except where there is an operational need to shift to in-person service.
  • All employees and visitors must continue to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Employees are also encouraged to make an appointment for a booster shot as soon as they are eligible. Booster shots have been shown to greatly improve protection against COVID-19, including the Omicron and Delta variants. To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine booster, visit www.kingcounty.gov/vaccine or use the Washington State Department of Health’s vaccine locator to check out your options and get on a waitlist.

With the exercise of reasonable caution, we can help slow the spread of this variant and protect our coworkers whose jobs necessitate they be onsite.

Be prepared for cold temperatures, snow, and ice

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 28

Extremely cold temperatures and icy road conditions are forecast for our region this week, so please be prepared for possible commute delays and impacts to business operations. 

If you work on site, please be prepared for cold weather. Have a plan for your commute, dress warmly, and let safety be your guide when making commute decisions. If you drive, have an emergency kit in your vehicle, including extra clothing, food, water, and a flashlight. Also, make sure your mobile phone is fully charged. Please remember to wear a mask indoors and follow other precautions and COVID-19 policies. Employees who are currently telecommuting should continue to do so where possible.

Power outages: If you are teleworking and experience a power outage that affects your ability to effectively work remotely, please contact your supervisor to discuss other options for completing work tasks. These may include taking leave or working from your regular King County worksite.

HR Policies: When an agency remains open, but conditions prevent you from reporting to work or from reporting on time, notify your supervisor as soon as possible. You may request leave, subject to approval by your supervisor. If you have no leave accrued, your supervisor may approve leave without pay to cover absences. Sick leave may not be used. Refer to HR Bulletin 2011-0009 County Operations During Emergency Situations and Inclement Weather (Sheriff’s Office employees refer to KCSO Inclement Weather Policy; Superior Court and District Court employees please see check court policies). 

Alternative work arrangements: If you are impacted by the weather and adjusting work schedules, working at an alternative location, or taking vacation are options for your job, please discuss these beforehand with your supervisor.

Metro on Emergency Snow Network: Metro’s Emergency Snow Network (ESN) will be effective at 4 a.m. Monday, Dec. 27, until further notice. Metro will reassess daily whether snow clearing efforts have adequately improved road conditions and determine if there is sufficient staffing and buses to restore service and operate the broader all-day transit network. Riders who intend to use Metro’s services Monday, Dec. 27, should visit the Emergency Snow Network webpage to view details about routes in operation and to identify their options.

Resources for travelers

Stay informed: Make sure you’re getting the latest King County information at work and at home in the event of inclement weather.

  • Sign up for KCInform, King County’s employee alert and warning system. KCInform is used to reach County employees during an emergency with timely information about infrastructure disruptions, facility impacts, changes in your department’s business operations, and other critical impacts. Your King County desk phone and @kingcounty.gov email are already in the system. It is important to register your County-issued cell phone (if applicable) and personal cell phone and email address to ensure you receive time-sensitive messages. This service is free and your personal contact information is secure and protected. To sign up, please contact kcinform@kingcounty.gov anytime or 206-296-3830 between 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday to request your unique registration link. Visit the KCInform website to learn more or watch our short video.  
  • Call the Employee Hotline—206-205-8600 (save it to your phone now!).
  • Check your King County email for information on business operations, delays, and closures. Log on at http://outlook.kingcounty.gov. Some agencies may send additional instructions directly to their staff.
  • Contact your supervisor for specific instructions.

Visit the Emergency News page at kcemergency.com for regional impacts.

Reduce your risk, sign up for a COVID-19 booster shot

With the highly infectious Omicron variant now circulating rapidly in our region, it is more important than ever to take steps to reduce your risk – including getting a booster dose if you are eligible. If it has been at least six months since your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or at least two months since your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are eligible for a booster shot.

To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine booster, visit www.kingcounty.gov/vaccine or use the Washington State Department of Health’s vaccine locator to check out your options. And to help meet the demand for boosters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is sending its Mobile Community Vaccination Center to Federal Way and Auburn in December and January. This Community Vaccination Center will be providing free COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters to everyone ages five and older. To get more information and register for an appointment with the Mobile Clinic visit https://bit.ly/kc-comm-vax.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone currently eligible should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster to maximize protection. CDC recommends the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson for both initial and booster vaccinations.

N95 masks for employees working onsite

King County is making N95 masks available to employees who are required to be onsite for voluntary use as we continue to monitor the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

All King County department and division leaders have been provided with information on ordering N95 masks, and these masks will be available soon for onsite employees to request.

If you would like to request a N95 mask for voluntary onsite use, please contact your supervisor.

Before using a N95 mask, please ensure that you read the information below on voluntary use of respirators (N95/KN95).

Information for Employees Who Voluntarily Use Respirators (N95/KN95 masks)

When providing these N95s for voluntary use by on-site employees, each must be provided with the following information:

  • Wearing an N95 may put additional stress on your heart and lungs; respirators should be worn with caution, and you might want to get advice from your personal physician or a medical professional prior to wearing one. If you have any trouble breathing or other related symptoms, you should stop wearing this type of respiratory protection and wear a disposable facemask or cloth face covering instead.
  • Important information about masks can be found at this Public Health Insider blog post: It’s time to refresh your mask supply (publichealthinsider.com)
  • Regardless of the type of mask worn, follow these guidelines:
    • To protect yourself, wear face coverings properly.
    • Your mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
    • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you put on a face covering and after removing it.
    • Change your face covering when it gets moist.
    • Wash your face covering after each use.
  • Snug-fitting masks provide excellent protection.
    • Make sure masks fit snugly against your face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and around the edges of the mask.
    • Use a cloth mask with multiple layers of fabric, or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
    • Choose masks with a nose wire or mask fitter
    • For visuals of these tips, visit the CDC’s guidance for improved mask use.

Additional COVID-specific information from the WA Department of Labor & Industries can be found at: Coronavirus/COVID-19 Workplace Safety & Health (wa.gov).