Commissioners express frustration with covid-19 rules
July 9, 2020
Wahkiakum County commissioners handled a variety of business Tuesday and, meeting as the county Board of Health, to express their frustration in dealing with the covid-19 pandemic.
Commissioners supported a proposed grant request by Port District 1 for upgrades a County Line Park; they approved plans to replace an air conditioning unit on the ferry Oscar B. and the courthouse heating and air conditioning system, and accepted the resignations of Trudy Fredrickson and Colleen Haley from the county planning commission.
In his report to the board of health, Health and Human Services Department Director Chris Bischoff said Washington and other states are seeing a surge in covid-19 cases. While Wahkiakum has had no new cases in the past week, both Cowlitz and Pacific have had new cases.
Last week, the state secretary of health ordered people to wear masks when they're in groups or go into a business, and he also ordered an end to customer seating at bars.
The order, coming from the secretary of health, is stronger than a governor's proclamation, Bischoff said, legally meaning that people must comply with it.
Enforcement, however, is another story; it will be up to business managers and courthouse department heads to enforce it on their premises, he said.
Use of masks has proven to be highly efficient in controlling the spread of covid-19, Bischoff said.
"Study after study has shown that if two people are wearing masks, there's a 70 percent drop in transition of covid-19 particles," he said.
A lot of people don't want to wear masks and wonder about face shields he added. They work for large droplets, such as those from a cough or sneeze, but not for small droplets such as those created by talking.
Emergency Management Director Beau Renfro said the project to install clear partitions in offices had run into a snag: The installer discovered the latest shipment of glass arrived damaged and has been re-ordered.
Renfro said he was preparing signs for office entrances that would remind people that masks were required to enter. Signs will create a unified message for visitors, and they'll emphasize the mandate comes from state officials.
Commissioner Dan Cothren posed the question to Bischoff which people have been posing to him: People are doing everything required, so when will they get back to normal?
"I don't see normal on the horizon," Bischoff said, referring to the spike in cases across the state and nation. "This is not something I want to perpetuate. I have no reason to keep this going. I'm not thrilled with where we're at; it has impacted my life in many areas.
"When we started reopening, it got worse. We're significantly worse off than we've ever been.
"Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. You're seeing burnout in health care workers who will leave the industry. We're starting to run into personnel shortages.
"What we're seeing is not just folks succumbing to the disease, but folks are also having life long impacts as a result of being ill. It's way worse than we thought it was as far as people who don't die.
"That's not what you want to hear, but that's what I see. I understand people's feelings on these things; I really do; I share their frustrations, but as a public health person, I've got to say that the path we're taking is correct, and in fact, it's too lenient, and epidemiologists are screaming we'll pay the price."
Cothren said public health officials endorsed the recent widespread demonstrations in which large crowds gathered without social distancing, and that has frustrated a lot of people.
"This country has gone south in a handbag, and, you know, every night, every morning you've got to watch this stuff but nobody says anything about that. Everything's burning and going to hell, and the taxpayers are paying for this stuff. It didn't help the health department when you had some higher officials saying, ‘This is great.' The people that abide by the rules, that go by the rules get the shaft every damn time. The people are fed up with this."
The country has been under stress for the past 20 years, Bischoff responded, and the pandemic hasn't helped and has increased people's stress.
Commissioner Mike Backman suggested state officials should have been building up hospital capacity.
"They knew this thing could blow up at any time," he said. "They've had months to build another hospital or another wing on a hospital. If you want people to see this thing as real, we've go to show them we're treating it like it's real, and that means some of those resources should have been going to getting ready to be able to have more capacity."
"They're doing as much as they can to be ready for this next wave. Everybody's behind the 8-ball. When you have all 50 states competing with each other for supplies, it drives problems into your logistical chains. When I'm on the telephone with those folks, they're exhausted. They're working their butts off."
Consistent messaging is needed, Backman said, otherwise people lose their trust and walk away.
"When you're in those meetings, you've got to push forward on that," he said.