Commissioners declare a state of emergency

Move clears way for expedited resources, requests for help

The Grays Harbor Board of County Commissioners has declared a state of emergency, making it easier for county departments to seek resources and funding during the COVID-19 outbreak.

County Public Health and Social Services Department Director Karolyn Holden requested the declaration to help facilitate the county’s preparation. Commissioners took the action Thursday at a special meeting. It is limited to 90 days.

“Basically, it allows us to quickly contract or call in volunteers. It allows us to take advantage of laws that enable us to act quickly in circumstances when quick responses are required,” Holden said.

But mainly this declaration makes it easier to ask for funds.

“It gives us the ability of not having to go through normal contracting procedures,” Commissioner Randy Ross said. “It also sets us up for getting emergency funding from a higher level (state or federal) if that funding becomes available.”

The meeting was attended by various health and protective services leaders from the county, including Sheriff Rick Scott, and county department administrators.

But the main message from the meeting was to take care of yourselves and your friends, family and neighbors.

“We’re really getting to the point where I want people to consider their own health needs very carefully,” Holden said. “I know that there are a variety of things happening in different parts of the state in terms of who’s closing what, events that are being canceled. And that is something that we’re looking at carefully. But people who are at risk of serious illness need to not base their actions on whether or not we’re canceling various events. If they believe they are at risk, they should do things to protect themselves.”

It has become commonplace for governments to declare an emergency during difficult times.

“We’ve done emergency declarations in the past and it’s usually for outreach for funding on the state and federal level,” Commissioner Vickie Raines said. “That’s the reason for doing it today.

“It’s important to have our citizens be mindful of the their own situations. The simple things like wash your hands, try not to touch your face. If your child is sick, keep them home from school. If you’re sick, stay home from work. I know some people are going to say they may not have that luxury to stay home from work. But the end result could be much different from missing a day or two of work. We’re encouraging social distancing. At this time, we haven’t canceled any events or had any closures at this time.”

Ross said, “I think we’re just entering the start of this. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But just act strategically and plan for it. It’s a rapidly evolving situation.

”I think people need to be concerned about their health and personal situation. But think strategically and don’t overreact. Talk with family members. Talk with friends so you can coordinate a plan if you’re in at-risk groups.”