County board gets start on new year
Covid-19 vaccinations too fast?
January 7, 2021
Wahkiakum County commissioners elected Gene Strong chair of the board for 2021 and acted on other business when they met Tuesday in their first meeting of the year.
Lee Tischer, attending his first meeting as a newly elected county commissioner, was voted vice-chair.
In his report to the commissioners, who were acting as the county board of health, county Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said department staff and volunteers are proceeding so fast with covid-19 vaccinations that he's under pressure to slow the process and share doses with Cowlitz County.
The county has been following a state-established priority list for vaccinations and has progressed to the point that they're vaccinating business and office workers who face the public and also vaccinating people age 79 and older. Other areas haven't reached that level.
"If we get too far ahead of the rest of the state, they won't send us doses," he said. "The supply has been slow to arrive; we're doing the best we can."
Commissioners said they wanted to see the vaccine administered locally.
"If we get the vaccine here, give it to the people," said Commissioner Dan Cothren.
Strong asked that, if possible, Bischoff report the number of people with active cases and the number of people who have recovered from the illness.
Bischoff responded that he is adding to the weekly statistical report, but recovery status has never been detailed in other epidemics.
He can make a guess basing it on the number of people who have been ill and the amount of time passed since the figure was reported.
"When I say recovered," I'm guessing," he said. "It's not hard and fast data, just an educated guess."
In other business, commissioners approved three requests for hiring personnel and made plans to make an appointment to fill a vacancy on the board of commissioners for Puget Island's diking district.
Commissioners approved a request from District Court Judge Heidi Heywood to hire a new chief deputy at a higher pay rate than is first set for the position. Heywood said the candidate has years of experience in court work and higher education than required. The board also approved a request to split a position that has been shared with the superior court clerk's office and restore a previous part-time clerk position in the district court office.
Similarly, commissioners approved hiring a candidate to fill an in-school behavior health specialist position at a higher pay rate than is first set for the position. County mental health director Julie Johnston said the candidate was qualified to be paid at a higher rate.
Commissioners also agreed to extend a state contract for rental assistance funding through next June.
Health and Human Services representative Duncan Cruickshank said the program's funds have been spent to assist both tenants and landlords; more assistance could be offered if more funding becomes available from the state.
By law, the county commission makes appointments to fill vacancies on some boards such as those of diking districts.
Cothren said the county board should solicit a recommendation from the existing diking commissioners and act on that at a later meeting.