Schools in the Seattle area closed down in the middle of March, after nearly half of the parents were already keeping their children home. After a few weeks of things being closed, it was clear we weren’t returning to in-person school and the schools attempted a virtual classroom situation that was not very well received. Some students completed their year’s coursework without a single point of human contact, without ever talking to a single teacher or educator.
During the summer, at least in my school district, the plan was to return to in-person schooling with restrictions and masks and everything possible to keep students and teachers safe. This plan was abandoned a few weeks before students were to go back into class and replaced with a 100% virtual schooling program.
Virtual schooling has been a bit of a disaster. Students all the way down to early elementary have been thrown into Microsoft Teams and are given dozens of assignments, several online meetings, and a dozen instructional videos per week. It’s difficult for parents to help because the eccentricities of the software make it difficult even for parents to navigate.
In my district, early elementary (K-2nd grade) have started going back to school for two half-days per week. At the end of the day, they are given boxed lunches but are not permitted to open those lunches either at school or on the bus for fear that taking their masks off to eat will constitute too risky a behavior.
Early on, nearly all religious gatherings shifted to virtual. As of March, very few Christian churches are meeting in person. None of the churches close to my house were meeting in person, though I did manage to find a Spanish service that was still meeting in person.
There is one church about 10 miles from my house that is meeting at 25% capacity, masked, with restrictions on singing. They were reported to the state as violating the meeting rules, specifically the mask mandate. This was untrue, which is why they suspected the complaint came from someone outside the church who simply saw that there were cars in the parking lot. But it did instigate a church-wide email reminding all parishioners to abide by the state rules.
We have an active mask mandate and mask compliance is universal for indoors gatherings and casual shopping. About half of the people we see at parks, on playgrounds, or running outdoors are wearing masks.
Until the end of the summer, most playgrounds were closed or blocked off. This did not stop people from using the playgrounds and most municipalities threw up their hands and gave up by August. A few parks doubled down, going so far as to rent fencing to block people from the play structures. This behavior has largely ended (as of March 2021).
Indoor dining was banned entirely until the late fall. Many restaurants compensated for this by setting up tents outside their structure and setting tables inside those tents. According to state guidelines, tents were supposed to have 2 open sides and be well ventilated. This was neither implemented nor enforced. Most restaurants simply put up tents in the parking lot and seated people in them.
When indoor dining was allowed, it was at 25% capacity. This restriction was mostly just ignored. Restaurants either didn’t seat people inside at all, or blocked off a few tables and called that good. Cafes have a similar pattern in which they will allow people indoors and set out a few chairs that they will tape off as a demonstration of limited capacity but then keep as many open tables as they can plausibly fit in their space.
Fast food restaurants have entirely closed off all indoor dining.
All movie theaters in Seattle are closed except for the AMC theaters, which are available if you want to rent an entire theater for a showing. The pricing is variable, $100 for old movies and $250-$300 for new movies. Theater capacity is limited to 20 people, which makes it very easy to keep socially distant. Masking is required but not enforced and patrons are permitted to remove masks if they are eating or drinking.