Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Covid-19 case surge continues in county

Potential exposure impacts sheriff's office; cases build in schools

A little over a week ago, the Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Office was notified by Wahkiakum Health and Human Services that some of their employees had been in contact with two people who had tested positive for covid-19.

“We’re talking close calls,” Howie said. “They were definitely with these people for a length of time. We did an emergency protocol, and made some changes in house.”

Eight members of their staff were tested and went into self-quarantine. Seven have gotten the good news that their test results were negative, and the eighth is still waiting to hear.

Regardless, each of them will complete the 14 day period of isolation in order to ensure that they do not in fact have or spread the virus.

They still have one more week to go, and in the meantime, Sheriff Mark Howie, Undersheriff Gary Howell, and Chief Civil Deputy Joannie Kuhlmeyer have been on call to help with the lowered staffing levels.

All the shifts were covered, with some adjustments to hours.

“I was worried about a skeleton crew,” Howie said. “We managed to adjust the schedule with seven people gone, and the eighth person worked minimally, away from others. We managed the schedule, but if it was going to get any smaller, we had a backup plan.”

Department personnel were already wearing masks and taking temperatures, but have stepped up their efforts even more. No visitors are allowed in the office, they won’t be making appointments for fingerprinting, and there may be a slower response time for non-emergency calls.

Since March staff briefings have been held outside when the weather is good, and deputies are encouraged to work quickly when they must go to the cramped annex space to complete paperwork. The door to dispatch has been closed, and other employees enter the space only to pick up an item to be printed. Nobody congregates in there any more.

The population in the jail have been there well past a quarantine time frame, Howie added. They are few, and they are keeping them separate.

“After Thanksgiving it’s going to go up all around,” Howie said of covid-19 numbers, “and after Christmas, so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. It was a pretty big scare, but we’re making it through.”


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