County officials plan for opening of offices
June 11, 2020
By Rick Nelson
With the state secretary of health approving Wahkiakum County's move to a Phase 3 opening for covid-19 virus restrictions, county officials are planning how to open their offices.
Since the start of restrictions, the courthouse has been closed to the public, with customers able to meet with office staff by appointment.
However, under Phase 3, the offices can be opened to the public.
County Emergency Management Director Beau Renfro said glass partitions needed to create clear barriers along counter fronts should arrive late this week or early next week.
While the state Department of Health hasn't yet drafted all the guidelines for operating in Phase 3, office procedures will need to follow those mandated by the state Department of Labor and Industries, said Chris Bischoff, director of the county Department of Health and Human Services.
As required for businesses, each office is required to write a plan for disinfecting counters and other surfaces and for screening employees as they come to work--taking temperatures and checking presence of covid-19 symptoms. Employees are required to wear protective masks unless working alone, Bischoff said.
Phase 3 allows gatherings of 50 people using six-foot social distancing, and Commission Chair Dan Cothren wondered when commission meetings could accommodate more participants.
Meetings have been held using the online platform Zoom, and under Phase 2 restrictions that allow small group gatherings, commissioners and some staff have gathered in the commission's meeting room.
Social distancing requirements will continue to limit the number of people who can attend meetings in person, Bischoff said.
"The open meeting rules are not extended yet," Bischoff said. "The River Street Meeting Room would allow better social distancing, but it would be a big hassle to move down there."
"We'll figure it out," Cothren said.
District Court Judge Heidi Heywood asked commissioners if the district and superior courts could use the commission's meeting rooms for jury rooms.
The courts anticipate being able to resume jury trials in July, and they need a room where jurors can go during recesses or when lawyers are debating motions in front of the judge.
Cothren didn't like the idea.
"I'm not willing to give up our space here," Cothren said. "We're in and out of here all the time."
He suggested juries could retire to the River Street Room, but Heywood said that or other county facilities such as the Hope Center were problematic for moving the jurors.
The group discussed other ideas but made no decision.
"We have a month," said Commissioner Mike Backman.