Washington County has extended its emergency declaration prompted by the coronavirus at the same time it announced it will cancel the annual state of the county address and the first of four planned town hall meetings.
The board acted Tuesday, March 17, to renew the declaration that commissioners approved on March 4. The original action took place after a Washington County resident was diagnosed as Oregon's first case of the COVID-19 virus linked to respiratory disease. The county then partly activated an emergency operations center, through which all county agencies are working to avert the spread of the virus.
The renewed declaration runs until April 2.
For now, the county will not invoke steps such as regulation of public gatherings or curfews, although Gov. Kate Brown has issued some orders temporarily shutting schools and public accommodations in the entire state.
Board Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington, in a YouTube video, has announced cancellation of the state of the county address scheduled April 1 at Century High School in Hillsboro. Also shelved for now is the first of four county town hall meetings, scheduled Thursday at Sherwood High School. She said both cancellations would comply with a recommendation by public health experts for people to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet.
"Following the guidelines of public health officials is what we can all do to protect ourselves, our families, friends and our community," said Harrington via the YouTube video. "That's why I am doing my part" by announcing the cancellations.
Other actions being taken by Washington County to support social distancing:
• Encouraging telecommuting as appropriate among county employees who can provide services remotely;
• Physically distancing employees and members of the public from one another while in county buildings by a distance of at least six feet wherever possible;
• Canceling other nonessential advisory and other committee meetings, trainings, conferences, forums and gatherings that can be postponed and using online technology instead where appropriate;
• Restricting nonessential travel among county employees; and
• Planning for reduced numbers of county staff physically in county buildings who are focused on essential functions such as safety, public health, emergency coordination and others.
County officials restated steps such as washing your hands, covering your coughs, cleaning frequently used areas and staying home if sick to slow the spread of the virus.
"If we listen to our public health officials and follow these protective measures, we have the chance of 'flattening the curve' and saving the health care system for those most vulnerable to this new disease," Harrington said in the video.
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