Photograph courtesy Steven Miller

Being Seattle Saved us. When the first reported case of the new coronavirus surfaced just outside city limits, the Pacific Northwest became the first American front of a war we’d never imagined. Somehow, Seattle’s stew of nerds and introverts mounted a response, one that brought the entire city together.

We were also some of the first to ponder whether we could truly work from home, shut down public life, avoid each other for months at a time. Was it because our Seattle Freeze mentality primed us to keep neighbors at arm’s length? Because our local industries had already overcome physical limitations to reimagine airplanes and cloud computing? Logic-minded Seattle—a city flush with medical research—listened to public health officials a little better than other places, reports said. That may have made the difference. 

In this strange new world, we still had each other, even if it was at a distance. People leaned out their windows with cowbells and kitchen-pot drums, making celebratory noise every night at 8pm to salute the doctors and nurses, bus drivers, and grocery store workers who faced exposure to the mysterious new disease. We tested ourselves for coronavirus on an unprecedented public scale, and we donated protective equipment to the front lines. Even at peak pandemic, Seattle’s sick never overpowered our hospital’s capabilities.

The Emerald City responded to Covid-19 with caution, but we never retreated into fear. On the surprise sunny days of spring, friends held socially distant happy hours across curb strips and backyard fences, and neighbors shopped for groceries for elderly acquaintances. As the city’s arts and dining industries shut down with a crash, funds to support workers sprung up faster than the spring blooms—like those sold on street corners to support local tulip farmers.

Of course, King County also saw more than 500 deaths from the virus in the first three months, including our especially vulnerable elders. The city scrambled to stop the spread among its already swollen numbers of homeless citizens, quickly placing more than 600 into individual housing, permanent or temporary. Results are inconclusive on whether it will work—and on why it took a health emergency to treat a homeless one.

The coronavirus pandemic hit Seattle at the end of February with alarming speed, but it won’t exit with the same haste. A city this self-reflective will be inspecting our own progress for years to come. The very logic that fueled a successful response may struggle with the uncertainty of its fallout, leaving us uneasy; Seattle may have been a diligent student, but no one’s handing out A+ report cards.

One thing is clear: The city led the charge against coronavirus and will be at the center of innovations to test for and treat it. We won’t forget these months of murals on boarded up shop windows and eye-smiles over handmade masks. Seattle survives because of who we are.

In This Feature:

How You Can Help Seattle Weather the Pandemic

Where to donate money, offer time, or otherwise pitch in.

08/04/2020 By Allison Williams

The Story Behind Steven Miller’s Brilliant Quarantine Portraits

The local photographer had to rethink his art during a pandemic—at the same time his whole life was in upheaval.

08/04/2020 By Stefan Milne

How a Group of Chef Buddies Joined Forces to Feed Seattle’s Food Insecure

Chef Melissa Miranda says Seattle Community Kitchen Collective will dish up free meals as part of the new normal.

08/04/2020 Edited by Allecia Vermillion By Melissa Miranda

A Guide to the Viral Vocabulary of Covid-19

There was a time when none of us knew what this all meant, but now these are words we live by.

08/04/2020 By Allison Williams

Meet the Starting Lineup of Seattle's Pandemic Response Squad

From the health honcho to the big cheese.

08/04/2020 By Allison Williams Illustrations by Jane Sherman

The Future of Work: Are Offices a Relic of Our Pre-Pandemic Lives?

The pandemic hastened the takeover of telecommuting.

08/04/2020 By Benjamin Cassidy

The Future of Social Lives: Could Covid-19 Melt the Seattle Freeze?

Seattle’s known as a city of icy introverts. The pandemic proved otherwise, even as we socially distanced.

08/04/2020 By Zoe Sayler

The Future of Delivery: Will Our Stay-Home Habits Stick Around?

More packages land on our doorsteps than ever. Is delivery having a momentary spike or seeing its next step?

08/04/2020 By Stefan Milne

Seattle's Pandemic Hobbies: Fad or Foundational?

Which will we toss the second real life returns, and which will become serious new habits?

08/04/2020 By Allison Williams

Remembering the Washingtonians We Lost to Covid-19

The pandemic has stripped our city of beloved community members, young and old. Here are some of the things they left us.

08/04/2020 Illustrations by Jane Sherman By Seattle Met Staff

Minding the Ever-Wider Gap Between the Community and the Police

Victoria Beach started the pandemic with a hard job as liaison with the police. Then it got even harder.

08/04/2020 By Allison Williams

The Doctor Will Zoom You Now

Dermatologist Melanie Clemenz went all in on telemedicine.

08/04/2020 Edited by Allison Williams By Melanie Clemenz