The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Commissioners press governor to ease covid-19 restrictions


April 30, 2020

Wahkiakum County commissioners dealt with a variety of issues related to impact of the covid-19 virus when they met Tuesday via the internet.

With about $250,000 state covid-19 relief funding coming to help cover pandemic response expenses, health department personnel presented a couple of requests for screening equipment for the courthouse and other county buildings.

One was a scanning thermometer to take the body temperature of people as they filter through security lines. The cost to purchase and set up would be approximately $3,360, according to Health and Human Services (H&HS) Operations Manager Duncan Cruickshank.

Cruickshank also recommended the county install permanent hand washing sinks at entrances to the county's public buildings. Depending on size and installation costs, the expense would be between $1,000 and $5,000 per unit.

Funding for both would come from covid-19 disaster mitigation funding or county general funds.

Commissioners were interested in the proposals but they declined to act on them.

H&HS Director Chris Bischoff said possible sites include the courthouse, county road shops and the Elochoman Valley complex. Commissioner Mike Backman suggested the fairgrounds in Skamokawa could use one of the permanent stations.

However, Commissioners Gene Strong and Dan Cothren had concerns.

Strong pointed out that the courthouse is built on a slab, and plumbing might face major issues.

Cothren was concerned the county was making too big of an expensive investment in equipment that might not be used when the pandemic is past.

"I think we're O-D-ing," he said. "This is way out of hand. The next generation won't be able to pay for all of it. It's a big cost."

Another cost to consider, Bischoff commented, would be to use mitigation funds to help the health department cover costs that aren't reimbursed by patients' insurance, or lack of insurance.

Mitigation funds would cover activities courthouse departments have had to start because of covid-19 response and that they weren't doing before.

After more discussion, Bischoff suggested the commissioners discuss the issues with department heads in another meeting, and the board voted to fund an increase in fares for non-emergency medical transportation by Wahkiakum On The Move.

Commissioners joined colleagues in Cowlitz County who last week asked Governor Jay Inslee to ease restrictions on business and social gatherings by passing a resolution with similar aims.

The resolution asks Inslee "to either rescind or amend the proclamations that adversely affect the peoples' power to do the following, provided they do so while exercising due care and caution and not to become a vector for infection:

"--Hunt and fish based on Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife previously published regulations;

"--Assemble and engage in religious activities;

"--Have access to retailers in firearms sales, transfers and the sale of ammunition, and

"--Exercise their rights pursuant to the Landlord Tenant Act in pursuing evictions for non-payment of rent."

The resolution also asked for easing of restrictions impacting the timber industry; it asked the governor to engage with commissioners and sheriffs across the state concerning future proclamations and loosening of restrictions, and to consult with legislative leaders concerning waiver or suspension of a statutory 30-day limit on restrictions.

Strong and Cothren both commented they would like to see restrictions eased next week.

"Twenty-nine thousand Boeing employees are going back to work and we can't have one or two carpenters on the job--I can't take that," Cothren said. "Rural counties take the brunt of it."

Bischoff said he and other health officials from other counties agree and have pushed back on restrictions in phone calls with state officials.

"When you look at all the pieces, it's so incredibly complicated," he added. "We're passing the death toll of Americans killed in the Vietnam war. There's no way to avoid economic impacts. There just isn't a convenient answer."


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