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City aims to slow spread of COVID-19; still no confirmed cases in Columbia County

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - All St. Helens government buildings are closed to the public through April 9 under a state of emergency declaration.The city of St. Helens has declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

Mayor Rick Scholl made the declaration on Thursday, March 12. The declaration will remain in effect until April 9.

A press release from the city described the measures the city is implementing to slow the spread of COVID-19 in St. Helens.

City government buildings will be closed to the general public, including city hall, the library, public works offices, police department lobby, and the recreation center, according to the press release.

The city will reevaluate closures on a weekly basis.

St. Helens police officers and public works crews will continue responding to calls. City staff will continue working but will not be available for in-person contact, except for essential in-person meetings planned in advance. Staff can be reached by telephone or email. A staff directory is available on the city's website.

Residents are encouraged to use the city's website to make utility bill payments, or call 503-397-6272, option 1.

Water services will not be suspended due to unpaid utility bills, until further notice.

The city may move all City Council meetings to a virtual format, but details have not yet been determined. Aside from city council, city boards and committees have canceled meetings for the next month.

The recreation center will follow the St. Helens School District closures for the Spring Break camp and the after-school program. "Should the School District close, these programs will also be closed," the press release stated. Refunds will be given in the event programs are canceled.

More information from the city regarding COVID-19 is available online. The county also has information online.

As of Thursday afternoon, neither the county nor the city of Scappoose had declared a state of emergency or announced closures.

Columbia County had no confirmed or presumptive (meaning an initial positive test result awaiting CDC verification) cases as of 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 12.

Columbia County Public Health Director Mike Paul said he could not comment on if there were any pending tests or individuals being monitored. Paul said any positive results would be promptly released through the Oregon Health Authority.

The county has activated its public health emergency operations center "which means we have staff and resources dedicated to responding, and we're doing what other local health departments are doing," Paul said.

Gov. Kate Brown announced a series of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 on Thursday morning. On Saturday, March 7, she had declared a state of emergency for all of Oregon.


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