On March 6, Clark County Public Health announced its first case of COVID-19. As of March 16, we have four confirmed cases in Clark County (as of March 23, the county has 13 confirmed cases with four deaths).
COVID-19 is different than the flu. We have no vaccinations or antiviral treatments. That’s why our health system is taking steps to slow the novel coronavirus’s spread.
The mayors of Clark County want to recognize that this is a time of great stress and anxiety.
The swiftness with which this situation has emerged globally is stunning; in less than two months we have gone from no known cases of infection to a global pandemic that is disrupting the way we live and our society functions. This sudden change is unsettling for everyone, and our caring and compassion for each other and those we serve is critical as we navigate the new challenges that will arise in the coming weeks.
Our response to COVID-19 has evolved quickly. As it continues to evolve, we’re committed to working with our councilors and leadership teams to care for our residents, businesses and employees through this crisis.
Since it’s believed that the virus will eventually touch every city, on Sunday, March 15th, the eight mayors held a conference call as a forum to share information and updates regarding our individual and collective response so far.
The discussion was very useful and reinforced that no one of us is alone in this effort. A few points of discussion were:
It’s important that during this crisis, and its recovery, we assure effective and responsive communication, with a key message being that these emergency measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus so as to minimize its impact on the community, our health care infrastructure, and our economy. All of our communities need a well-coordinated and consistent regional message.
Clark County Public Health and CRESA have established a regional forum to coordinate that response. CRESA has established a Joint Information Center (JIC) to coordinate communications among agencies and to the public, and to facilitate information sharing among agencies and Clark County Public Health. JIC participants convene daily and we’ve asked them to coordinate a regular conference call briefing for the mayors.
Emergency declarations have been issued by Clark County, Vancouver, Ridgefield, Battle Ground, Washougal, Woodland, and Yacolt. Many of the jurisdictions have taken a consistent approach under emergency orders and operational changes to implement and enforce the recommendations by our Public Health officials. Social distancing, suspending or postposing non-essential services or activities, and partially or fully closing facilities (schools, libraries, and community centers) will help to minimize the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.
FINANCE AND BUSINESSES
We’re all concerned about the impacts to business – particularly small businesses – and the general economy. Many of our small-business owners and their employees have no safety net.
The Department of Revenue has reached out to the finance officials across the state to coordinate an approach to providing technical assistance and potential relief to businesses that are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, the State Legislature passed a bill (EHB 2965) that is on its way to the governor that will provide relief and assistance resources.
All of the mayors are concerned about the social isolation impacts of a preventative community response – particularly to our senior populations. The Vancouver Housing Authority may be a resource for a plan and for approaches that can mitigate these kinds of impacts.
In addition, it’s increasingly necessary that we develop a plan for our homeless population and newly unemployed individuals, especially our families with children out of school. That plan may be a moratorium on water, sewer, and internet cut-offs, and evictions.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Take care of yourself and your family. Wash your hands frequently and avoid gatherings.
Take care of your neighbor. Check on that isolated elderly neighbor or newly unemployed family. Can you help with a meal or child care?
Help your community. Please don’t hoard food and household supplies. Consider donating your extra items to your local food bank so they can feed the children and the elderly. Call your favorite restaurant and ask for a carry-out or a delivery, and one more for your neighbor!
This is a swiftly changing situation and we will all need to be flexible, patient and understanding as we adapt our operations to meet the demands of our environment. There are no easy answers. We’ll recover and emerge stronger because of the relationships, partnerships, and the kindness we’re showing now.
Battle Ground Mayor Don Stose
Camas Mayor Pro Tem Greg Anderson
La Center Mayor Greg Thornton
Ridgefield Mayor Adrian Cortes
Washougal Mayor Molly Coston
Woodland Mayor Will Finn
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle
Yacolt Mayor Katie Listek