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

County commission hears health director's report, acts on varied issues


September 3, 2020

Wahkiakum County commissioners breezed though a light agenda Tuesday, approving some personnel changes, discussing 9-1-1 telecommunication issues and hearing a report from the county's health department administrator.

Health and Human Services Department Director Chris Bischoff had three issues to discuss as the commission met as the county board of health: 1. Anticipation of another appropriation of CARES Act funding to address pandemic issues; 2. the start of in-school classes in Cathlamet schools, and 3. the approach of the flu season.

Bischoff said the state Department of Health expects to release funding to health departments later this month. He expects the appropriation to be a bit lower than the $250,000 the county received earlier this year. He suggested some of the funds could be channeled to local schools and St. James Family Center to assist with their covid-19 responses.

Classes resumed yesterday (Wednesday) for Cathlamet schools, and Bischoff said his staff worked with school district administrators to develop the plan for resuming classes.

Wahkiakum School District may be the largest state-funded school district in the state to be going back to in-person classes. Bischoff said.

"We could be in the headlines in two weeks," he said, "how to screw it up or how to do it successfully."

Naselle school staff are working with the Pacific County health officers, he added; classes will start there during the week of Sept. 14.

Flu season is approaching, and Bischoff urges everyone to get a flu shot. A flu illness heightens a person's risk to a severe case of covid-19.

This is part of the effort to minimize covid-19 risk in the county. To continue to confine the risk, people need to wear masks and practice social distancing.

So far, the county has fared well, with only six cases and no deaths reported. The high school was able to hold in-person, socially distanced graduation in June, and there was no covid-19 outbreak.

"We really need parents to take this seriously," he said.

In other business, commissioners approved a request from court Clerk Kay Holland to fill a vacant clerical position; they approved a modification of pay class steps for three mental health therapists; they approved a call for bids for paving Columbia Street between Jacobson Road and SR 4 this fall, and they approved a transfer of funds in the Emergency Medical Services Fund to cover replacement of monitors and other equipment for the Cathlamet ambulance.

The board also approved a proclamation honoring 9-1-1 telecommunicators and naming Sept. 11 as 9-1-1 Telecommunicators Day.

The issue initiated some discussion from Commissioner Mike Backman, who asked if there should be an effort notify motorists with signs that they are entering a deadzone where there is no cell phone reception and they may not be able to reach a dispatcher if necessary.

Joannie Kuhlmeyer, the sheriff's department's chief civil deputy and 9-1-1 operations director, said texting works in most areas.

She added that because of sparse population in rural areas of the county, it's tough for telecommunications companies to justify investment in infrastructure.


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