Skamania County confirms first case of COVID-19, needs personal protective equipment for first responders

Many Gorge hiking trails, including Dog Mountain and Cape Horn, are closed

Kelly Moyer/Post-Record Crowds gather at Merwin Lake, a reservoir on the Lewis River at the border between Clark and Cowlitz counties in Southwest Washington, in August 2019. PacifiCorp, which manages the lake and related Merwin Dam, has closed several recreational sites along the Lewis River to the public to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Skamania County has confirmed it has one resident who has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. 

Since being discovered in December 2019, COVID-19 has infected at least 468,644 people worldwide and has led to more than 21,100 deaths, including 133 fatalities in Washington state.

“The investigation into this case shows that the individual has been isolated within his home and has already notified close contacts, family and friends,” stated Skamania County Undersheriff Pat Bond in a press release sent to media this afternoon. “Those that have been contacted are self-quarantining to their residence for 14 days after their last contact with the confirmed case.”

Bond stated that emergency responders in the county are “working hard to protect themselves and members of the public during this pandemic.”

“The use of personal protective equipment by our first responders adheres to the standard/universal precautions to avoid contact with potentially infectious material and can include non-porous gloves, goggles, masks, face shields and gowns,”  Bond stated. “Due to the shortage of these items within Skamania County and nationwide these items are only being made available to these essential emergency based agencies, no equipment will be made available to the public.”

If the public has unopened boxes of personal protective equipment they would like to donate to first responders, Columbia Hardware in Stevenson will take donations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

More recreation sites close in wake of governor’s “Stay Home” order

Skamania County Deputy Health Director Steven Krager had already closed recreational hiking in Skamania County this week until further notice, but a new set of closures related to hiking trails and other outdoor spaces within the county, as well as sites in nearby Clark and Cowlitz counties, came down today.

Among those new closures: 

Washington Department of Natural Resources has closed all of the lands it manages to the public, effective today through at least April 8.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed Cape Horn Trail, Dog Mountain Trail and Klickitat trails in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area, effective today and until further notice. 

PacifiCorp has closed most of its recreation sites in Oregon, Washington and California through at least April 10. The closures impact sites such as Merwin Park, Cresap Bay Park and campground, Speelyai Bay Park, Saddle Dam Park, Yale Park, Cougar Park and campground, Beaver Bay Park and campground, Swift Forest Camp, Eagle Cliff Park and most Lewis River access sites including the Merwin and Lewis River hatcheries. A complete list of Washington sites can be found at pacificorp.com/community/recreation/washington.html.

“Skamania County is a small rural community with relatively little infrastructure available to handle large numbers of COVID-19 infections,” Krager stated in an order dated March 23. “Unnecessary travel from larger metropolitan areas for the purposes of recreational hiking in the Skamania County Gorge increases the likelihood of close social interaction both in the parking areas of trailheads, on crowded trails themselves, and during other incidental social interactions resulting from such travel.” 

Krager stated that local Skamania County businesses such as gas stations and grocery stores were “ill-equipped to handle the volume of interactions while maintaining recommended social distancing.” 

Bond later sent out a press release responding to the county order and said the trail closures were “in direct response to the influx of non-residents to our county, in a complete disregard for social distancing and (in response to the governor’s) Stay Home, Stay Safe proclamation.”

“The warm weather brought an unusually large amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic to all recreational sites within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area and Gifford Pinchot National Forest,” Bond stated in the press release. “In a normal setting, Skamania County welcomes visitors to enjoy our natural beauty and many recreational opportunities, however this is not a normal time with the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Bond said the Sheriff’s Office would attempt to educate violators about the order, but noted that disobeying the order “can be construed as a crime and can be handled as such if an extreme occurrence does happen.” 

Skamania County, in conjunction with community health partners, has established a dedicated email address to answer questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic or government services for county citizens. Residents are encouraged to email COVID19questions@co.skamania.wa.us with questions.

To access information about the number of COVID-19 cases by county in Washington state, visit doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus.

The Skamania County COVID-19 Emergency Response Task Force asks the public to practice the following activities to stay safe during the pandemic: 

  • Stay at home. If you are not able to stay home, limit exposure to others and practice social distancing. 
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.

 

Please review our community guidelines