by Richard Uhlhorn
COVID-19 or better known as the Coronavirus has now been classified by the World Health Organization as a pandemic. “We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In Washington, Governor Inslee is banning large gatherings of 250 or more people in the Seattle Metro Area in an attempt to stop the spread of Coronavirus. It is not expected to include work places or school closures, however major sporting events are affected and are trying to make plans for the spring sports season.
The Lake Chelan School District along with other school districts in the area have shut down all indoor activities including:
Athletic and extracurricular indoor practices and competitions
Parent-teacher conferences (scheduled for March 16-21)
– Schools will communicate alternative meeting and conferencing plans with parents
All non-school organized indoor activities and gatherings
Public meetings scheduled in school facilities
Public events and functions (dances, plays, concerts, festivals)
Afters Program and Family Night scheduled for March 11 th
Community user groups (youth sports organizations, churches, non-profits)
Tuesday evening’s Chelan City Council Meeting addressed the COVID-19 crisis. City Administrator Wade Ferris told the Council that the City was looking at quite a few things regarding local actions that have already been taken. “It is changing hourly,” said Ferris. “We have to be proactive,” he added.
Chelan Administrator Wade Ferris took the City Council through the COVID-19 pandemic at last night’s City Council meeting.
This includes starting with the City’s employees and their contact with the public. “Our employees have a lot of contact with people,” said Ferris. “We have to protect our employees.” A part of that protection will include the janitorial service wiping down all counters and other locations.
“The worst case would be closing down City Hall.” Ferris added that it was important to see who the essential employees are. “Regardless of what happens, we will keep the water flowing.”
If ordered to stay home, employees will continue to be paid. There was also a discussion regarding the possibility of retaining public access through virtual meetings that could include On-Line Streaming. “We need to comply with the Open Public laws,” said City Attorney Quentin Batjer. Puyallup lawmakers have already moved town halls to telephone.
“We will coordinate with Chelan County, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow their lead,” said Ferris.
Councilman Peter Jamtgaard.
Councilman Peter Jamtgaard asked if there was discretionary funding the City can use? Finance Director Steve Thornton replied that all of the departments have operating budgets and that there is $150,000 available. “We would come back after the fact with a budget amendment,” said Thornton.
Ferris also said that Mayor Bob Goedde has been working with the school district on Emergency Declarations.
He also said that it was important for information to flow whether it is good or bad. “Our goal is that whatever we put out is accurate. How we get that out is important.” He mentioned the local media outlets. “We will use every source we can think about. This is really important,” said Ferris. “It is critical that we make the right decisions.”
Councilman John Olsen reported that Chelan’s Senior Center would be closed down beginning Wednesday, March 11.
Councilman John Olsen said that the Chelan Senior Center has been closed down as of Wednesday morning.
Councilwoman Erin McCardle asked about the information out of the Chelan/Douglas County Health District. Ferris said the City would follow their advice.
Councilman Dr. Ty Witt added his perspective on the virus.
Councilman Dr. Ty Witt weighed in and remarked that regular influenza kills more people and said, “What I like about this exercise is that we will learn to wash our hands. New virus’ come up all the time. I just wish it wasn’t so prominent.”
Jamtgaard stated that people are booking vacations where they can drive instead of flying, which could mean that Chelan will continue to be busy this summer. “I was talking to Tom Gormley at Lakeside Lodges and he said he has never had so many bookings this early.”
At this time there has not been any positive cases reported reported in the Lake Chelan Valley, but our local medical personnel apparently believe there are people who would test positive.
It is obvious to everyone that this pandemic is going to continue to affect our lives in the Chelan Valley in some negative ways, however, as most people are saying, “It is better to be safe than sorry.”
As of Wednesday morning, 120,000 people worldwide have been infected and that number is growing hourly. It is important to remember that the Coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough. Older adults and people with existing health problems are the ones at risk of more severe illness including pneumonia.
According to Robert Redfield, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this pandemic is going to get worse as the days wear on.