Washougal city manager issues declaration of emergency

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category icon COVID-19 coverage, Latest News, News
A model of the COVID-19 coronavirus (Contributed photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control)

On Monday, March 16, the city of Washougal announced that it is closing all city facilities to the public through at least April 30.

The city will remain open for business during the closure, and is directing department directors to evaluate opportunities for employees to work remotely.

“This measure to increase social distancing practices is being taken in response to ongoing guidance from health officials regarding the necessary actions to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Washougal City Manager David Scott wrote in a statement.

“The city continues to closely monitor the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and implement appropriate actions in response to this rapidly changing issue. These closures are consistent with actions being taken by other cities in Clark County.”

Scott issued a declaration of emergency for the city on Friday, March 13.

“This follows similar declarations made by the president, governor, Clark County and other communities across the state,” Scott wrote in a statement. “This declaration is a preparative measure that allows the city organization to move swiftly and legally in our response through streamlining processes and provide access to federal, state and local emergency resources and funds.

“Any emergency orders and actions taken under the declaration are anticipated to be done in coordination with a regional response.”

On Saturday, March 14, the city began to implement a series of changes in operations and services as preventative measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus among city employees and the community, including: cancelling all city-permitted public events; suspending all non-essential public meetings; suspending or modifying all programming that caters to vulnerable populations; suspending non-essential travel and training; modifying water shut-off policies to assure sanitation resources in homes; enhancing sanitation of all public buildings and facilities; and encouraging symptom awareness and asking employees to stay home if they are sick.

Scheduled city council meetings will continue to occur, according to Scott, but with social distancing modifications, such as increased space between chairs, in place. The city is encouraging community members to livestream the meetings on the city’s website, Scott added.

“The city of Washougal is taking steps to contain the spread of coronavirus as well as preparing for further actions as they are needed,” Scott wrote. “We understand and empathize with the growing anxiety and uncertainty of how, or when, the disease will evolve in our region and what the response will be if an outbreak does occur here.

“Our priority is continuing to serve our residents by ensuring the city remains open and operational with appropriate measures in place to protect the health of our employees and the community. The city continues to closely monitor the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and implement appropriate actions in response to this rapidly changing issue.”

The city is “following the lead and guidance of Clark County Public Health and working alongside Clark County Public Health and Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) and surrounding partner municipalities to implement coordinated response and communication,” Scott wrote.

“Currently, the number of confirmed and under investigation cases in Clark County is relatively low. However, this is expected to grow exponentially in the coming weeks and months,” Scott wrote. “The risk of exposure is increasing for people who live in our region. Health agency experts, including the World Health Organization, recommend social distancing measures be deployed to contain the spread in communities, not to specifically prevent illness, but rather to slow down the rate at which people get sick.

“We encourage everyone to consistently practice the hygienic and social distancing measures recommended by Clark County Public Health and the Center for Disease Control. It is vitally important that we all stay informed, stay calm and work together to keep our community safe and healthy and reduce the spread of the virus in our region. On behalf of the mayor, council and staff at the city, we extend our thanks to the Washougal community for rising to the occasion.”