Personal protective equipment in short supply… county and businesses want to move to Phase II opening

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by Richard Uhlhorn

 Chelan businesses will have to rely on homemade masks for their employees when these businesses are allowed to reopen to the public. Historic Downtown Chelan executive director, Erin McCardle, asked Sgt. Kent Sisson, to point her in a direction where she can find masks and gloves. Sisson replied, “At this point we are going to have to rely on homemade masks.”

“How about gloves,” asked McCardle. Sisson said gloves were coming in and going out the door.

Sisson told the Leadership Response Team on its teleconference on Thursday afternoon that PPE deliveries were improving, but that when orders do come in, they are only 25% of what was ordered. “It’s very difficult to supply the public with N95 masks,” said Sisson. “It will be difficult to accommodate the public.”

Kari Grover Weir asked about hotels for quarantines. Sisson stated that they have contracted with a hotel in East Wenatchee and that it is not fully occupied. This is where the positive Stemilt workers were housed.

Joyous Van Meter, Regional Epidemiologist/Regional Emergency Response Coordinator, chimed in and said that there were currently 141 positive cases in Chelan County. “We are concerned that we are not seeing a decline in cases yet,” said Van Meter. “We don’t have testing and contact tracing  in place. We haven’t reached that point yet.”

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Chelan Schools Superintendent Barry DePaoli said he was aware that some schools have graduation guidelines. “Will the County put out guidelines for graduation,” asked DePaoli. Van Meter replied that she didn’t know.

DePaoli said he is aware that Entiat High School is going to be allowed to use its football field for its 25 graduating seniors with 10 foot separation guidelines in place. “This has been approved by the Health District.”

DePaoli is concerned that with some schools opening up for graduation ceremonies is going to put undo pressure on other schools. “It would behoove us to have specific guidelines. We want to make some decisions soon. I just want some clarity on that.”

Van Meter stated that Chelan County has the 9th highest incidence of cases and Grover-Weir asked if she could talk about declining numbers. “We have not seen any decline,” said Van Meter. “We are seeing an acceleration of cases.” McCardle asked how the County can get to a decline. Van Meter replied that it was a good question.

EMS Director Ray Eickmeyer chimed in and asked, “Should we go by the amount of admissions to the hospital?” Van Meter replied that a very small percentage get admitted to a hospital.

McCardle asked Eickmeyer how many active cases the hospital has in house? Eickmeyer replied that they are not disclosing how many patients they have. “We are letting other public agencies disclose that.”

Manuel Navarro, Columbia Valley Health, stated that Confluence does not view the information as privileged and publishes on a daily basis. “This morning there were only four Covid cases in their hospital.” McCardle said, “Does that feel like it is overwhelming?” Eickmeyer replied that LCCH is not overwhelmed and are currently below capacity.

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Sgt. Chris Foreman, Chelan Division, said the Sheriff’s department is entering uncharted territory. “It is hard to forecast what Memorial Day is going to be like this year.” He reported that the Sheriff’s Department is putting some things in place but didn’t elaborate.

One thing will be the lack of outside law enforcement personnel in Chelan during the three day weekend. He did ask for reservation details from Campbell’s, Grand View and Lakeside Lodges. Lakeside, as of last week, had lots of vacancies for rooms. “We haven’t heard back from Campbell’s or the Grand View,” said Foreman.

In the past outside law enforcement personnel patrolled Don Morse Park and the downtown area. “We will be beefing up coverage of Don Morse Park,” said Foreman.

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Grover-Weir said that Antilon Lake will remain closed for the weekend, but the Ranger District is still expecting lots of campers to be in the Valley.

Eickmeyer reported that the hospital and EMS are doing well. “We’ve seen an uptick in calls,” he said. He added that the hospital is preparing to open up for elective surgeries. “We are trying to be prepared for Wave 2,” said Eickmeyer.

Grover-Weir asked about patients that the hospital has that are quarantined at home. Eickmeyer replied that if they come down with Covid like symptoms, the hospital encourages them to come in before symptoms get serious.

Laura Schmidt, Columbia Valley Health, said they are getting more positives. “Quite a bit of asymptomatic are coming in, but quite a few are coming in with symptoms as well.” Christy Morris, CVH, said that the symptoms are mild. “We get their vital signs and some have oxygen levels that are low.” She encouraged them to come in if the symptoms get worse instead of waiting until it is serious.

Superintendent Barry DePaoli reported that the school district concerns are not academic at this time, but the social and economic health of their students. The district is also concerned about the emotional health of its staff and teachers and continues to provide professional development as much as possible.

DePaoli also reported that food services are going well and the district is serving more meals than they ever have. The District is exploring how they can honor their seniors for graduation this year. As for on-line schooling, DePaoli says they are getting 50 to 60 percent of their students on-line, but he expects that to drop when students go to work. “Across the nation, on-line schooling is at 30 percent,” said DePaoli.

“It certainly has been challenging,” said DePaoli. Chelan Fire Chief Mark Donnell asked what DePaoli would like from the fire district. “We will be going into summer and food services will be unavailable,” said Donnell.

DePaoli replied that the district is already thinking about food services and is working with Thrive and the Food Bank. “When we come up with a plan we will certainly reach out,” said DePaoli. Sgt. Foreman added that the Sheriff’s Department wants to do whatever it can to support the graduating seniors.

Kari Grover Weir reported that as a mother of a senior, she appreciates the efforts to recognize them at graduation.

She opened her weekly report that the District has no Covid cases in its employees. “By the end of the month we will have all of our firefighters in Entiat (40) and Chelan. “We have been working on how we are going to get masks and are trying to figure out our quarantine situation.”

The District is expecting an above normal fire potential this year. “It is pretty dire this year,” said Grover-Weir. “It is definitely a concern for us.” She also said that campgrounds may be open by Memorial Day and that trail heads may also be open.

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Mike Steele reported that Chelan County Chambers have signed a letter in support of opening Douglas and Chelan Counties to Phase II immediately. “The protocols of the Governor’s guidelines are somewhat muddy,” said Steele. “We are finally looking to help businesses to interpret both the government’s and state guidelines. We can’t go another week or two or 12,” said Steele. “We are trying to deal with some of that.”

Manson Chamber President Debbie Conwell stated that this crisis has been quite a blow to the Manson business community. “Many are saying they will not open until they can go full blow,” she said.

She reported that this coming Saturday morning, May 9, that there will be a parade in downtown Manson for the Apple Blossom Royalty with the Manson Fire Department participating.

Chelan Fruit’s Jim Colbert reported that the rate of Covid infections has slowed and a number of employees are returning to work after testing positive. “We continue to educate on social distancing, but it has been kind of a challenge because of the realities of their life styles.”

Colbert also said that a lower crop of cherries might be a good thing for the packing houses in the midst of the Coronavirus situation, but kind of a bad spot for the farmers.

Mayor Goedde reported that after careful consideration the City has rescinded its order on STRs. Goedde is still unhappy that the Governor never addressed the people traveling back and forth from their primary residences and second homes. “The Governor wouldn’t enforce his order,” stated Goedde.

He also reported that Wenatchee’s Mayor Kuntz and he have signed a letter to move to Phase II immediately. “There is some risk and rewards,” said Goedde. “It comes to a point that mental health is going to be as bad as the virus.”

With regards to a citizen request that the City being an incident command team, Wade Ferris, city administrator, asked the team for their thoughts. “I think it is covered by what is going on here,” said Ferris. Donnell concurred and said the team is working under the Chelan County Sheriff’s Emergency Management team and that it meets all intent of the resident’s letter.

Goedde recommended that residents get their grocery shopping done before the Memorial Day weekend hits and then encouraged them to stay at home.

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