Washougal reopens city buildings

Masks mandatory but vaccination status not checked

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Washougal City Hall (Courtesy of Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files)

Following a 15-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Washougal reopened its city facilities to the public on Monday, July 6.

Washougal’s city hall, permit center and public works buildings are now open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The Washougal Police Department station will be open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. every weekday except Wednesday — when it provides appointment-only fingerprinting services. The Washougal Community Center is open from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including city employees, is required to wear face coverings while visiting the city facilities.

“The city is not required to and will not be checking the vaccination status of those who enter our facilities,” Washougal City Manager David Scott said. “(Washington Governor Jay Inslee) has set up this masking requirement scenario based on the honor system, and we trust that our neighbors in Washougal and others to whom we provide services will be respectful of this when they enter our facilities and the businesses in our community. Of course, any vaccinated individual who wishes to wear a mask in our facilities is welcome to do so.”

City staff originally discussed a phased reopening process that would have taken up to six weeks to complete, but decided to open all at once after Inslee announced a lifting of the majority of Washington’s COVID restrictions on June 30, Scott said.

“(The state reopening) changes our service portfolio a lot,” Scott said during the city council’s June 28 workshop. “But, as you can imagine, in the COVID context, things are changing quickly, what our sister communities are doing changes quickly, and this has been no exception. And I expect things will change even after June 30, (but) the team is prepared to (reopen).”

The city of Camas recently reopened its city facilities, as did the Port of Camas-Washougal.

Washougal’s emergency order does not specify when the city will resume in-person meetings, but council members could decide to do so at any time, possibly for their July 26 meeting, Scott said.

“The order indicates that council meetings will continue to be virtual until the council decides that they’re not virtual, which … is probably fairly soon,” Scott said. “We just don’t know exactly the parameters around masks and distancing are going to be from Labor and Industries and the Department of Health. Will they be the same or will they be different? Because they’re different right now, and they would be applicable in our chambers.”

“Depending on the vaccination status of council members and staff members, and depending on those rules, the tenability of a meeting and how we would orchestrate (it) vary. We kind of have to understand what the rules will be for those council meetings, because of our small room, before we make a decision about that,” Scott said.

That day can’t come soon enough for council member Alex Yost.

“For the record, I cannot wait until we’re done with this virtual setting,” Yost said during the city’s council’s June 28 meeting. “I have extreme virtual fatigue. Being an elder Millennial, I know I’m supposed to like this stuff, but I’m just really done with it. We have so much more robust conversations and presentations when we’re there in person. Personally, it’s easier for me to grasp the information. I’m looking forward to being back together in a room and actually getting to know each other again, because I feel (the pandemic) has put a lot of distance between us, and we were getting to know each other so well.”