Shutdown of business looks extensive now, complying with governor’s order

   WHATCOM — “Essential” work does not include general commercial or residential construction, the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County is telling its members after seeking clarification of the governor’s “stay home, stay healthy” order.
  “Our understanding is that all construction must cease at midnight tonight until April 8 or beyond if Gov. Inslee deems necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19,” wrote association executive officer Robert Lee in a March 25 email. 
  “Please take all measures to comply with this order to that you can protect yourself, your employees and your customers,” he added.
  A Lynden businessman gave as an example of the fine distinguishing now needed in construction trades that he can do “mitigation” but not “restoration” of a place’s sheet rock or carpet damage. 
  A Thursday morning walk through downtown Lynden attested to the shutdown of most businesses there.
  • Just past noon Thursday, March 26, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Whatcom County stood at 86, up 20, while the number of deaths doubled to four.
  Also Thursday, the state Department of Health reported the number of deaths in Washington at 132 and overall cases at 2,580. At least 31,712 people had tested negative, keeping up a rate of about 93% versus 7% testing positive.
  The state’s notifiable conditions database was experiencing a slowdown because of a ten-fold increase in the number of lab reports being received.  
  • The Lynden Christian Schools campus is closed to work and any extended use, Superintendent Paul Bootsma announced to staff this week, in line with Gov. Inslee’s Monday “stay home, stay healthy” order.
  Allowance is made for essential workers to support distance learning, as defined by the state, he said.
  During the closure, employees may come to campus to get materials, files and equipment necessary in order to teach or perform their jobs. However, these should be brief to gather the things needed in order to work from home — visits of minutes, not hours. 
  Meanwhile, custodial staff will do deep cleaning and disinfecting of the premises.
  • A community partnership is aiding the Shuksan Healthcare Center of Bellingham to deal with the concentration of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff.
  Whatcom Unified Command has facilitated a collaboration with healthcare provider PeaceHealth to support the facility at 1530 James St.
  PeaceHealth will provide supplemental healthcare for at least four weeks. Personnel such as registered nurses, certified nursing assistants and licensed practicing nurses have volunteered for this temporary assignment. The PeaceHealth providers will work full-time at Shuksan and at no other healthcare facility. Upon ending their time at Shuksan, they will be in a two-week, fully paid furlough period to ensure ongoing health safety for all patients. 
  On Sunday, 32 coronavirus cases associated with Shuksan Healthcare were announced. The next day, updated protocols went into effect intended to limit the spread of COVID-19, especially within vulnerable Whatcom populations.
  PeaceHealth this week also began providing meal service for Shuksan, three meals a day for at least two weeks. Whatcom Transit Authority will transport the meals using appropriate protocols. WUC is developing a strategy to provide supplemental cleaning at the facility.
  “This exemplifies why we came together to solve problems throughout the community to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic,” Whatcom Unified Command said.
  • For Lummi Island ferry operations, fare collection is temporarily suspended until further notice as part of COVID-19 response. The purser desk is closed, and no punch cards are for sale. No exchange of cash, credit cards or punch cards is happening.
  “We  realize  lost  revenue  is  an  issue. However,  right  now  our  top priority is the health and safety of our county and island community,” states county Public Works.
  • Due to the coronoavirus, Gallery Syre of Bellingham is extending the deadline of its Youth Artist Open Call to May 15. All Whatcom County students in grades 6-12 are invited to engage with the theme “Living without the Internet” in doing art during this home-schooling period.
  The contest is also opened up to all mediums and techniques, said Casey Curtis, gallery manager.
  For more details, go to www.gallerysyre.com. Application forms can be requested at gallerysyre@gmail.com.
  • A bipartisan letter sent out by four state legislators is “a unified call for all Washingtonians to help stop the spread of coronavirus by abiding by the Governor’s guidelines.”
  The signers are Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane; Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma; Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville; and House Minority Leader JT Wilcox, R-Yelm.