The mayor of Camas and his family are self-quarantining after returning from a two-week trip to Spain, where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced that country into lockdown.
There was one reported case of COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus that has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide since being discovered in December 2019, when the family left.
“When things escalated very quickly to the point that the country went into lockdown and we had to spend a couple days on the phone with airlines to get our tickets changed. Fortunately, we were able to do that and two days ago we got back into the States, to Camas, Washington, and we are super excited to be here, ” Camas Mayor Barry McDonnell said in a video he posted to YouTube earlier today.
The mayor and his family, including his wife and four children, returned to Camas on Wednesday.
“We are all feeling healthy and fine, however we are staying in the house for the next two weeks to make sure we do not unintentionally pass on anything we may have picked up in Spain or during our travel to the various airports,” McDonnell said in the video.
The mayor issued a state of civil emergency proclamation on Wednesday and said he would continue to release videos next week to help update residents about the city’s response to the pandemic.
Currently, all non-essential city of Camas staff have been asked to work from home and Camas City Hall is closed.
“Our biggest focus is ensuring the safety of our citizens and to prevent the virus from spreading in our city,” McDonnell said. “This is a national — a global — emergency … I am confident with the city’s leadership. We are working cohesively and listening to the experts.”
McDonnell said he urges people to stay away from others physically but to continue to check in on neighbors, especially those who are older or more isolated, by phone or other forms of not-in-person communication.
“This can be very scary for some people and we want to do everything we can to help support them,” McDonnell said.
The mayor told the Post-Record he was too busy to talk on the phone today, but might be able to touch base next week. Instead, he issued a statement via email.
“Life has shifted and our citizens and business owners are rolling with the punches,” he wrote to the Post-Record. “So many of our Camas businesses have set up ways to continue serving our community with minimal social contact. Many of our local restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops like Feast316 and Mesa, Salud, Natalia’s, Hana, Squeeze & Grind (and Caffe) Piccolo have pivoted to providing takeout now; you can call in or order online, pickup and bring home your meal, and enjoy the extra time with your family.”
The mayor’s March 18 civil emergency proclamation in Camas followed in the wake of several other state, county and local government agencies declaring emergencies, including Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s Feb. 29 state of emergency declaration; and similar announcements in Clark County as well as the cities of Vancouver and Washougal on Friday, March 13.
‘Public health experts agree that the true number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 in Washington greatly exceeds the number of COVID-19 infections that have been laboratory confirmed,” McDonnell stated in the emergency declaration. “It is very difficult to know exactly how many people in Washington have been infected to date since most people with COVID-19 experience mild illness and the ability to get tested is still not widely available.”
Today, county health officials confirmed two more cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide, including 74 fatalities in Washington state.
The mayor’s proclamation came five days after Inslee ordered all K-12 public and private schools closed in the state through April 24, and two days after a statewide order that also shuttered entertainment and recreational facilities, closed bars and banned in-person dining at restaurants.
In his statement to the Post-Record, the mayor praised local Camas businesses that have been finding ways to stay open and work through social-distancing measures implemented to contain the virus and prevent more COVID-19 cases.
“We have local care providers, like Doula My Soul, who are continuing to offer their consultation services online and over the phone, and Body Bliss Yoga, one of our newer downtown businesses, who have been quick to respond to the mandated changes by offering online classes where you can watch via your device and follow along at home,” McDonnell stated. “Our consignment shop downtown, 4ever Growing Kids, is posting toys and books and games on their social media so our families can purchase things to entertain our home bound kids online and pick up curbside.”
“And then we have Lutz Hardware who have been a fixture in our community for 70 years. As our community spends more time at home, Lutz is a great place to find what we need locally to take care of our homes — for cleaning, repairing and finishing up all those home improvement projects that have been on our to do list for years that we suddenly have time to get done,” McDonnell added.
Some local businesses, including Lutz Hardware and Riverside Dental, had also donated supplies such as masks and surgical gloves to Camas-area first responders.
“Our police department is very appreciative of those needed generous donations,” the mayor stated.
McDonnell added that he planned to release more YouTube videos in the coming weeks and would be talking to people “who help keep (Camas) running.”
“Right now, though the city’s biggest focuses are on keeping our basic services up and running, keeping our citizens safe and safely connected and supporting local businesses,” McDonnell stated.
The mayor said he intends to release more YouTube videos next week, including interviews with the city’s police chief and the Camas-Washougal fire chief on Monday; an interview with the city’s financial director on Tuesday; and an interview with the city’s public works director on Wednesday. To access the mayor’s video from today, visit youtu.be/XHKXZRVlSp0
“It’s so important for us to stay positive right now, to do our best to enjoy this time that we have with our kids and partners at home, to stay connected to our neighbors and helpful to those at risk in our community, and to continue supporting our local businesses,” he added. “Camas is a tight-knit community with the values and tenacity that will carry us through these trying times. I have great faith in our city’s leadership and the people of Camas to heed the warnings to isolate as much as possible and help flatten the curve and keep this virus from spreading. Together we can stay healthy, strong and keep the impact of COVID-19 and its effects minimal to our community. Together we can get through this. Camas has got this.”