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

Health director ready to apply for Phase 4 as soon as state will allow


As the covid-19 pandemic evolves around Washington, Wahkiakum County officials are looking to advance to a Phase 4 opening as soon as possible.

"I'm ready (to apply) if the state will allow it," county Health and Human Services (H&HS) Director Chris Bischoff told the county board of commissioners on Tuesday.

"My feeling is that as long as the trend is upward, they won't allow anybody to go to Phase 4," he said.

"That's the problem with Phase 4," commented Commissioner Gene Strong. "People will come in from other areas. The more you open things up, the more people (and risk) will come in."

Over the Independence Day Weekend in 2019, Bischoff said, over 100,000 people came to the Long Beach Peninsula.

"Those people will drive through and stop to buy things," Strong said.

Wahkiakum County has had only four covid-19 cases for several weeks; a fifth case was confirmed over the weekend.

Cowlitz County has been in Phase 2 and has applied to move to a modified Phase 3. However, the county, like much of the rest of the state, has seen an uptick in cases the past two weeks.

"Yakima County leads the West Coast in the number of new cases, almost the country," Bischoff said. "Cowlitz has had person to person spread."

As of Monday, Cowlitz had 149 cases with 19 hospitalizations and no deaths.

Under Phase 4, gatherings over 50 people would be allowed; night clubs, concert venues, large sporting events would be allowed; unrestricted staffing of work sites would be allowed with distancing and good hygiene; all recreational activity could resume, and people in the high risk population could finally resume public interaction, with physical distancing.

Plans to be ready to re-open courthouse offices are proceeding, said project coordinator Beau Renfro. Partitions have been installed in several offices; more materials are on order and will be installed when they arrive, he said.

And with mandates for employees and customers to wear masks, he has placed another order to boost the county's supply.

In other business before the county commission Tuesday:

Commissioner Dan Cothren said the US Army Corps of Engineers should be dredging along Puget Island's Pancake Point this year. The Corps is bringing a large dredge from Texas to the Columbia River to increase dredging capacity.

Commissioner Mike Backman and Puget Island resident Lee Tischer commented on the interlocal effort to bring broadband internet to the county. All agencies in the county need to work together to support the effort, Tischer said. "We need to figure out how we come together as a team," Backman said.

Amateur radio operator Ron Wright said the Amateur Radio Field Day will be this weekend. Operators will spread out around the county to see how many contacts they can make as practice for communication in times of disaster.

Commissioners approved letters of support for grant applications by Port District 1 for improvements at County Line Park and by the Town of Cathlamet for improvements at the Pioneer Cemetery; they approved an amendment to a contract to add $25,000 in state funding for the Youth Marijuana Prevention Education Program; they approved purchase of a new sweeper for the road department at a cost of $72,484.43, and they extended an interlocal agreement with Pacific County to provide select engineering services.


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