Veterinarian Mark Swaney talks with a dog owner in the parking lot of the Day Road Animal Hospital. (Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review)

Veterinarian Mark Swaney talks with a dog owner in the parking lot of the Day Road Animal Hospital. (Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review)

Bainbridge community hunkers down as virus spreads

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There’s no place like home.

So you better get used to it.

Bainbridge Island has joined the world community — in isolation — as 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues its devastating and deadly spread around the globe.

Kitsap health officials announced a third case of COVID-19 on the island earlier this week, and the number of confirmed cases had grown to nine countywide by late Wednesday.

State officials are asking people to stay home to help stop the spread of the virus.

Life as we know it has changed, completely. The way we live and learn; how we socialize and what we prioritize.

Gov. Jay Inslee, at a press conference Monday in Seattle, said normal life is different now.

An emergency proclamation signed by Inslee — mandating the immediate two-week closure of all restaurants, bars, and entertainment and recreational facilities, as well as additional limits on large gatherings — went into effect at midnight Monday. It will be in place through March 31.

“If we are living a normal life, we are not doing our jobs as Washingtonians,” Inslee said.

“We cannot do that anymore. We need to make changes, regardless of size. All of us need to do more,” he said. “We must limit the number of people we come in contact with. This is the new normal.”

These numbers will rise

The death toll in Washington state from the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has climbed to 66 late Wednesday, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington stood at 1,187, with nine cases in Kitsap County.

The Kitsap Public Health Department reported Wednesday that two new COVID-19 cases have been found in Kitsap; a North Kitsap resident in their 60s, a South Kitsap resident in their 30s.

There are nine total COVID-19 cases in Kitsap, including three on Bainbridge Island.

The newest case on Bainbridge was a resident in their 40s who tested positive.

The other cases are: March 16, a South Kitsap resident in their 50s; March 15, a Bremerton area resident in their 50s; March 15, a Central Kitsap resident in their 40s; March 13, a South Kitsap resident in their 40s; March 10, a Bainbridge Island resident in their 70s; and March 8, a Bainbridge Island resident in their 60s.

Health department officials said positive cases have now been identified in all geographic areas of the county: Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Central Kitsap, North Kitsap, and South Kitsap.

Kitsap health officials reported Wednesday that it has been notified of 162 negative tests for the virus in the county.

‘Closed’ signs here, there

Businesses across the island were adapting to a shortage of workers.

Pane d’Amore Artisan Bakery announced Saturday it was closing its three stores amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in Washington.

Pane d’Amore has bakeries on Bainbridge Island, Sequim and Port Townsend. The locations, usually open seven days a week, are being shuttered because of a lack of employees, Linda Yakush, co-founder and owner of Pane d’Amore, said in an announcement on the company’s website.

“With great sadness and confusion we are temporarily closing the bakery due to coronavirus concerns,” Yakush said.

“Our self-quarantine measures make it impossible for us to meet production safely,” her announcement added.

“The financial impact of this decision on our employees and the business cannot be overstated but we all must put health and safety first. Thanks to swift action by Washington’s government our employees will be able to access unemployment benefits while out of work,” Yakush added.

Vet makes car calls

At the Day Road Animal Hospital, the staff removed children’s books and magazines from the lobby and exam rooms to limit the possible spread of COVID-19, in addition to additional cleaning of surfaces in the facility.

The animal clinic also started asking people to stay in their cars in the parking lot with their pets, which prompted curbside consults by veterinarian Mark Swaney and pet owners.

People who have brought their cats and dogs by for appointments have been happy to see the clinic open.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive that we are thinking out of the box and trying to continue services for as long as possible,” said Swaney, who is also medical director at the animal hospital. “Our clients have been awesome and understanding.”

“Everyone has been very appreciative that they still have the option available so far,” he added. “Some clients felt a bit guilty worrying about their pet, given all that is happening, but our pets are family and they can be very important in helping us cope, so I tell them they shouldn’t.”

Nothing’s going on

While many cultural attractions announced partial closings last week, or canceled programs, the list grew this week with still more closings and cancelations.

Some said they would only lock their doors until the end of the month, but remained ready to close completely if the COVID-19 outbreak worsened.

Even access to the great outdoors was affected. Monday night, the Bloedel Reserve announced it would be temporarily closed at least through the end of March.

Officials with the nonprofit, 150-acre forest garden said the closure includes the grounds, as well as the gatehouse, the shop, the residence, and the administrative offices. All scheduled events through April 30 were called off.

“Our dedicated staff will continue to care for the grounds and facilities, using new protocols to help protect their health and safety. Our administrative staff will be telecommuting,” the Bloedel Reserve said in its announcement.

“Like other arts and cultural organizations around the region, we are taking this action to help protect the health and safety of our guests, staff, volunteers and the community at large,” the announcement added.

Bloedel said some events may be rescheduled later in the year.

Already stuffed

Bainbridge’s biggest annual Easter egg hunt has been canceled.

The free event — which typically attracts a massive crowd of kids and families every April — won’t be held this year, said Terry Lande, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District.

About 3,000 people attended last year’s mEGGa Hunt, Lande said.

Concerns about the outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington and the danger of further spreading the virus at a large public gathering made the cancelation an easy call.

“It’s 3,000 people and we don’t want to have a gathering of 3,000 people,” Lande said. “And with schools closed, it was like, ‘No, that’s not a good idea.”

The mEGGa Hunt is one of Bainbridge’s largest public events, and is held annually at Battle Point Park.

The final day for stuffing the thousands of plastic eggs needed for the event had been scheduled for Friday, March 13, but was called off.

Lande said that most of the plastic eggs that were going to be used during the hunt — about 15,000 in all — have already been stuffed with candy and prizes.

“Probably 99 percent. Almost all of them,” Lande said.

At some point, the park district will decide on how to empty the eggs.

Park facilities, including district offices, sports fields and the aquatic center, will be closed for the rest of the month.

Lande said that will give the district time to reassess as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.

A decision will be made as April approaches whether facilities will remain closed, or if portions of facilities, like parts of the aquatic center, can be reopened.

“We want to reassess. This will give us a chance to see if there anything new,” Lande explained.

In the meantime, the district is encouraging residents to use those facilities which will remain open, such as parks and trails.

Libraries closed

Kitsap Regional Library closed down its branches on Tuesday, March 18.

Local library branches — including the Bainbridge Public Library — will stay closed until at least April 20.

“This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make,” said Kitsap Regional Library Director Jill Jean. “But, it is imperative that we all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

KRL said the agency’s decision came quickly after the library district’s announcement late last week that it was going to cancel all classes, events and meeting room booking and remove children’s toys from public areas.

“Kitsap Regional Library is taking care to balance this responsibility with the needs of our patrons. While the library is unfortunately closing for several weeks, we will be open regular hours for the next four days to allow for many of our community members who will be home during this time to enjoy the benefits of the Library,” Jean said.

The last two open days at the Bainbridge Public Library gave people a chance to stock up on books, DVDs and other check-out materials.

And did they ever. Shelves quickly emptied, despite the efforts of staff to keep them restocked.

After March 18, book drops were closed and patrons have been asked to keep the items they have checked out until the library reopens.

KRL said due dates will be adjusted accordingly.

While the library is closed, KRL is encouraging people to use the library’s online resources and services. Kitsap residents can sign up for a free digital eCard for access to eBooks, audiobooks, music and eMagazines or explore online education tools like Lynda.com or research databases and more.

Other library systems in Puget Sound have also shut down because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Sno-Isle Libraries, the system that serves Snohomish and Island counties, announced its buildings would close to the public at 6 p.m., Friday, March 13.

Sno-Isle Libraries officials have not determined how long it will stay closed.

The King County Library System said it was closing all its libraries starting Friday, March 13 and said the closures will remain in effect until at least April 13, or until further notice.

Plastic only, please

Life at Bainbridge Island’s most prominent gas station and convenience store, the Hungry Bear Market and Chevron on High School Road, continues in the wake of Inslee’s directive regarding business closures and social distancing, albeit slightly adjusted.

Starting Wednesday, cash was no longer be accepted and the store’s public restroom is closed, according to manager Hannah Ridge.

Also, the store will now be open for the reduced business hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. only.

The change in hours is more to promote social distancing among staff and customers than an indicator of business, Ridge explained.

“Our sales haven’t been dramatically affected,” she said Tuesday. “We’re trying to adjust everyone’s hours so they weren’t losing many of their hours, but we are going to stop taking cash starting [Wednesday].”

The market’s resident restaurant, Jake’s Pickup, is also making adjustments in light of the ongoing spread of COVID-19.

According to a message posted to Facebook late Monday, “As we so sincerely care about your health and well-being as much as our staffs, we will not be offering hot food off the griddle or coffee until it is safe to come out and play.”

According to the post, owners Jake and Kristi Angel, “are following the governor’s rules and social distancing ourselves from everyone.”

“The two of us will load the grab-and-go coolers as long as we have product to sell. The Brown Bear has adjusted the store hours, and we plan on being there when the Brown Bear is closed. This way we can load the coolers and not be in contact with anyone.”

Later, much later

Some closures made last week were extended this week, following the governor’s request that greater precautions be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, including the use of social distancing.

Kids Discovery Museum — which said late last week it would be closed to the public effective March 12 through March 31 — expanded its shutdown through April 24.

Other social events that had been planned for next month were also postponed.

The West Sound Wildlife Shelter said it wouldn’t hold its annual fundraiser, the Call to the Wild Gala, as planned on April 25.

Lisa Horn, executive director of the nonprofit shelter, announced the postponement Monday.

“Our staff, volunteers and supporters remain our top priority during this rapidly changing COVID-19 situation. The health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance to us,” Horn wrote in her announcement.

The gala will be postponed to Oct. 10 at the Clearwater Casino.

Horn said tickets that have already been purchased will be honored at the Oct. 10 benefit, and noted that all donations of items, art and experiences for the auction will be held in safekeeping until the October event.

The Bainbridge Island-based shelter will remain open as staff continues to monitor the COVID-19 crisis.

City hall closed

On Monday morning, the city of Bainbridge Island activated its Emergency Operations Center, and said the center will work “to manage and prioritize resource requests across the community, and to coordinate additional communication and outreach.”

The city also shut down city hall, as well as the police station, to the public from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20.

The closure followed the shuttering of the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center over the weekend.

Officials said city facilities will remain open to city employees and that Bainbridge “will continue to deliver essential services, such as policing.”

“The closure will allow staff time to focus on internal systems and assess online or other changes to service delivery processes in anticipation of any potential long-term changes that may be implemented through April 30,” the announcement said.

Reopening city hall would likely involve limited services, officials said.

Council meeting cancelled

The Tuesday meeting of the city council was also called off.

The council had been facing a beefy agenda, which included a resolution to declare a climate change emergency, and a briefing on pursuing funding for a nearly $3 million extension of the Sound to Olympics Trail from High School Road to the Highway 305-Madison Avenue intersection near First Baptist Church.

City Clerk Christine Brown said the agenda items for this week’s council meeting will be taken up at a later date.

City officials also announced the cancellation of all city advisory group and committee meeting through April 30.

Officials said Design Review Board and Planning Commission meetings will resume once the city “has alternative meeting platforms and other adjustments in place.”

The city has stopped taking new reservations for meetings at city facilities through April 30, and all community training and workshops — including programs for emergency preparedness programs — have been called off through the end of April.

Bainbridge officials said they were focusing on three goals: supporting public health guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19; supporting the community as a resource for community partners; and continuing to provide essential municipal services, which include police services and support for utilities and other public infrastructure.

‘Flatten the curve’

The Bainbridge Senior Community Center shut down last Friday.

“The senior community center has decided to move quickly to close its doors to all activities and focus on using digital media to provide outreach and social connection to seniors in our community,” the announcement said.

“In addition to mandatory closures instituted by our state and designed to ‘flatten the curve,’ we are motivated by new research indicating the virus can be transmitted during its ‘incubation period’ — meaning that someone can inadvertently spread infection.

“As of today we are no longer holding any in-person activities, but we are moving quickly to provide support over the internet — using email, streaming video, and social media to keep connections going,” the announcement said.

The senior center said it will continue to serve the Meals on Wheels Kitsap lunch program, and is working with Meals on Wheels Kitsap “to find an alternative way to continue to support ongoing nutritional assistance.”

Sport seasons in limbo

The closure of schools on Bainbridge Island and across Washington state has put the spring sports season in limbo. That came after a two-day closure for Bainbridge schools last week was stretched to April 24 by orders of Gov. Inslee.

Inslee later announced all schools in Washington would be closed.

Bainbridge school officials said Monday that all athletic practices, captain practices, games and contests are closed for Bainbridge High and all Metro League schools through April 24.

Coaches and athletes are not allowed to organize practice gatherings during this closure timeline, including weekends.

Erin Bischoff of the Bainbridge Island School District also noted that indoor athletic facilities on the district’s campuses are closed, including gym spaces and the fitness center.

The list of canceled sports events has grown exponentially in the past week.

More than 40 sporting events through April 24 — baseball, soccer, tennis, softball, track, water polo — have been cancelled.

Schools offer meals

Bainbridge Island public schools has started offering free meals to all island youth between the ages of 2 to 18.

Officials with the Bainbridge Island School District announced late last week that curbside pickup of meals will be offered between 11 a.m. and noon weekdays at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary, Ordway Elementary and Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary.

There will be hot and cold sack lunches and also cold breakfasts (to refrigerate for the next morning). Students/youth can choose both a breakfast and a lunch, officials said.

District officials also noted that due to federal regulations, students/youth must be present to receive meals, and the district is not allowed to provide meals for children who are not present.

The district will follow the school calendar and there will be no service during Spring Break, the week of April 6.

The meal program started Wednesday, after a training day for staff Tuesday.

At Wilkes Elementary just before 11 a.m., volunteers rolled the first cart filled with meals out of the school and into the eastern parking lot as they sang, “We Are The Champions” and laughed.

The parking lot was divided up by yellow tape and orange bollard safety barricades to restrict traffic flow to a single lane that passed by tables filled with meals. Volunteers in florescent safety vests handed big white bags containing a breakfast and lunch to those who drove up.

A matter of faith

The ban on large group gatherings left the faith community looking for other ways to keep their congregations connected.

St. Cecilia Parish on Bainbridge Island started live streaming Daily Mass on Facebook on Monday.

Daily Mass with Father Mark Kiszelewski at the Catholic church started live streaming with a cell phone the week before, and St. Cecilia Parish also announced that all activities, meetings, and Masses have been suspended.

The parish office has also been closed to walk-in visitors.

The church is staying open for individual prayer during weekday office hours.

Church officials are asking its members to practice “social distance” while at the church — and everywhere, as well — by staying 6 feet away from others.

Eagle Harbor Congregational Church turned to YouTube.

“We are responding to the COVID-19 public health precautions this Sunday (March 15) by asking most of you to stay home Sunday morning. Good news: you can join worship via a YouTube live stream from 9:25 a.m. by clicking on this link: https://youtu.be/h_DBZ0N0CMM,” the church announced on its Facebook page.

Officials said they were planning to host 10 members of the congregation at the Sunday service at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church; those interested in attending were asked to sign up online.

For the first time since April 3, 1963, the bell in the steeple at Seabold United Methodist Church didn’t ring out on Sunday morning to call the congregation.

Seabold UMC also canceled worship services for the next two weeks. Officials said the decision was made by the Greater Northwest Episcopal Office.

The message from church leadership said: “Consistent with the directives and recommendations issued by Oregon Governor Brown and Washington Governor Inslee and recognizing that persons over 60 or who have compromising health conditions are advised not to attend gatherings of more than 10 people, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky has directing the local churches of any size and other ministries in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to suspend in-person worship and other gatherings of more than 10 people for the next two weeks, starting today.”

Seabold UMC holds services at 10 a.m. Sundays. Church officials said Pastor Cindy Roberts will continue to provide her congregation with pastoral care via phone and plans to send video messages in the coming weeks via email to church members.

The Seabold UMC campus is also used by Seabold Preschool and Island Co-op Preschool.

Church officials said the two preschools will be closed for at least two weeks. Island Time Activities, which also uses Seabold’s social hall, also closed.

The Rev. Karen Haig told members of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church before Sunday that all services and activities at the Bainbridge church have been suspended for the next two weeks.

“The way we are church must change in these strange and tender times, and I write today to share the news from Bishop Rickel that all church services and activities in the Diocese of Olympia are suspended for at least two weeks, and that our entire facility will be closed during that time,” Rev. Haig said in a message Friday to the St. Barnabas family.

“While we are changing the way we ‘do’ church, we are not changing the way we ‘are’ church! We want to be together and we are coming up with some wonderfully creative ways to do that. We will continue to worship together from our separate places,” she added.

Several churches will be streaming services on Sunday, the rector added, and she noted that St. Barnabas was “in the process of setting up check-in groups for the full congregation.”

The church is also setting up a private Facebook page “where our children can connect, ways for those who are not at risk to help with shopping and errands, phone trees and other ways of connecting and checking in on each other.”

“While not gathering together for worship and connection may seem difficult news for us — we are a deeply connected, worshipful and sacramental community — I am in full agreement with the Bishop’s decision. We are in unprecedented times. A significant number of our parishioners are among the most vulnerable. And while we do this to care for ourselves and our congregation, we are also doing it as the very best way we can love our neighbor in these uncertain times. The only way to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to stop spreading it — and the only way to do that is to stop being in the same place at the same time. Sacrificial giving comes in many forms and right now, we must sacrifice our time together for the good of the whole.”

While St. Barnabas staff and the church’s commercial kitchen users will continue to use the church, the rector asked others not to enter any of the church’s facilities until permission was given from Bishop Greg Rickel.

“Some of us are anxious, some concerned, some frightened and some are just fine,” Haig said in her email. “This is a wonderful season to practice patience, forgiveness, compassion and kindness. God’s grace is sufficient for all things and when we embody that grace, we offer God’s love in a time it is desperately needed. Give each other lots of room and give yourselves the room to pray and process and care for yourselves.”

Youth counseling available

Despite schools being closed, Bainbridge Youth Services is offering free mental health counseling for youth ages 13 to 21 via videoconferencing.

“During tumultuous times, support is essential,” said BYS executive director Cezanne Allen.

“If a young person you know could use a little extra support in handling life’s challenges during this time of uncertainty, please know that Bainbridge Youth Services can help,” she said.

Young people can schedule appointments at www.AskBYS.org or leave a message at 206-842-9675. Counseling appointments are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

BYS also announced that in an effort to decrease the spread of the COVID-19, the BYS office at 8533 Madison Ave. will be closed until April 24, following the same schedule as the school district.

“But we are in this together,” Allen said. “We want to make sure kids can still get the help they need.”

Order in the court

Bainbridge Island Municipal Court has postponed all currently scheduled court matters, with a beginning date of Monday, March 16.

Municipal Court Judge Sara McCulloch approved an emergency administrative order Monday to limit operations at the municipal court, located in Rolling Bay, due to public health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak.

“In order to promote the public health goals identified by public officials, and promote the health and safety of users and staff at the court, it is necessary to modify operations and reduce in-person attendance,” McCulloch wrote in the order.

Court matters will be rescheduled by the court clerks, with exceptions on traffic infractions and parking mitigation cases made by mail; criminal cases where a defendant is in custody; protection order hearings; and review hearings for compliance with orders for surrender weapons, installing ignition interlock devices, and compliance with pre-trial drug and alcohol monitoring.

The court also said that civil motions may be noted and heard without oral argument.

Court officials noted that passport processing services by court staff is being suspended at least until April 30.

Bainbridge city officials said the courthouse will remain open, but the public is encouraged to contact the court by phone (206-842-5641) and email (court@bainbridgewa.gov), rather than in-person, to the maximum extent possible.

Walk-ins not welcome

Housing Resources Bainbridge has announced its office would be closed for all walk-in appointments.

The closure kicked off Monday.

Phedra Elliott, executive director of Housing Resources Bainbridge, made the announcement in an email to the community.

“During these difficult times, HRB continues to be a resource for individuals and families in our community who require housing assistance. More than ever, we are committed to ensuring the housing stability of our current residents across Bainbridge Island as well as offering our support to the dozens of households that reach out to us each month. To that end, we are modifying are our services with prevention and safety in mind to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Elliott wrote.

Property management staff will be available by phone to help current tenants and applicants, Elliott added, during normal business hours Monday through Thursday.

Empty shelves everywhere

Grocery stores on Bainbridge Island continued to struggle to keep up with demand for hand sanitizer, toilet tissue and other products over the past week.

A crush of shoppers at the Safeway on High School Road left shelves empty not only of disinfectant products and toilet paper, but shelves usually filled with pasta, peanut butter, soup and other canned goods were also empty by Saturday.

Officials with the Washington State Department of Health began urging residents across the Evergreen State to not to buy more than what they needed as people stock up on hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and other supplies in response to the outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The message: Think of others; buy what they need, and not more.

“Before you sweep the store aisles clean of these items, you might want to remind yourself of the harm you’re causing to yourself and your community by overstocking,” health officials said in a message late Saturday.

“The more you overstock those supplies, the less is available for your sick neighbors, and for doctors, dentists, and emergency response personnel. Doing our part to keep vulnerable people healthy includes making sure they have access to necessary supplies.”

Officials said they have heard from grocers who say that consumer overstocking, and not problems from deliveries from warehouses, is the main reason their store shelves are empty of many supplies and food items, especially hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, and plastic gloves.

“We want the public to be assured that if they will return to their normal pace of grocery shopping that there will be an adequate supply of products for their consumption,” said Jan Gee, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association and its educational foundation.

“We also want the public to be assured of the fact that the grocery stores are taking extensive measures to reduce any opportunity for contamination in our stores, and with the public’s cooperation, we will continue to provide a clean, virus-free environment stocked with healthy and fresh foods for everyone,” Gee said.

No food to go

In a message released late Monday via Facebook, Washington State Ferries announced all vessel galleys and terminal vendors will be closed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“In response to the governor’s emergency proclamation closing restaurants, bars and recreational facilities to help slow the spread of COVID-19, all galleys on our vessels will be closed starting Tuesday, March 17,” according to the message.

“Food vendors at our Anacortes terminal will also be closed.”

No estimate was given for when regular service would resume.

In response to online comments from some that the galley was primarily to-go food and thus could arguably be exempt from the governor’s decree, WSF officials said, “We understand it’s an inconvenience but we’re prioritizing the safety and health of our crews as well as our passengers.”

In an earlier announcement, WSF said they “have plans in place to limit service or passenger capacity if ridership declines or based on evolving health guidelines. Until then, we will continue working hard to provide safe transportation for those who depend on us to get to work, as well as essential goods, services and medical appointments.”

No such limitations have yet been announced.

Additionally, WSF encouraged riders to maintain distance from each other while traveling and promised to maintain elevated sanitation standards in the wake of the continuing spread of COVID-19.

“Our vessels are much larger than many other forms of public transit, allowing passengers more opportunity to keep some distance between each other. If riders want to take extra precautions, avoid the busy morning and afternoon commute sailings if possible,” WSF said.

“Drivers and their passengers can stay in their vehicles during the sailing if they choose. We have always followed robust cleaning procedures, including cleaning vessels between each sailing and a deep clean between shifts every eight-to-10 hours.”

Drop-in services halted

The Kitsap Public Health District has closed its front counter through March 31.

The closure has been made to promote social distancing in response to the outbreak.

Officials with Kitsap Public Health said the agency will continue to provide essential services to the community, but noted that due to the health district’s ongoing COVID-19 response effort, processing times may be slower than normal.

Many of services offered by the health district can be accessed online through its website at https://kitsappublichealth.org/.

Those include community health services, such as birth and death records, and environmental health services, such as property conveyance and water status report applications, residential building clearances, sewered building clearances, temporary food permits, and well-decommissioning applications.

For syringe exchange services, call 360-728-2235 to schedule an appointment.

For more information about available services, call 360-728-2235 during normal business hours (8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) for assistance.

Court worker has COVID-19

A member of the Kitsap County Superior Court tested positive for COVID-19, and the court office was ordered closed through Friday, March 20.

Kitsap County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Hull said court leaders were told late Tuesday that a member of the Superior Court office had tested positive for COVID-19.

The individual, an adult male over the age of 60, has not been at the courthouse since Thursday, March 12, Hull said in a message announcing the closure.

Hull said the court worker was not feeling sick and did not have any symptoms of illness when he left the courthouse last week.

But when he awoke on March 13, Hull added, the man had a piercing cough and a temperature exceeding 100 degrees. He was advised to not return to the Kitsap County Courthouse until he received a negative COVID-19 test or was cleared by a physician.

The courthouse worker notified Hull and Court Administrator Frank Maiocco at 5:38 p.m. Tuesday of his positive test result, immediately after he received it.

Hull said the Kitsap County Health District has not advised the office to close, but the courthouse is taking the step in an abundance of caution to give the health district a chance to identify those persons who may had close contact with this individual.

Hull said that after this week’s closure, the Kitsap County Superior Court will resume operations in conjunction with Emergency Administrative Orders issued beginning March 13.

Limited operations have been initiated to reduce the number of people who need to come to the courthouse while still meeting the court’s constitutional obligations, Hull noted.

Info line established

Kitsap County has set up an information line to address questions and concerns raised by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The phone number is 2-1-1. County officials said the dedicated line is designed to supplement the commonly asked questions and answers about COVID-19 already posted on the Kitsap Public Health District’s website at http://kcowa.us/COVID19.

Calls made to 2-1-1 will go to the 211 Call Center in Bremerton. The phone lines are currently staffed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Officials said the call center has been designed to help residents “navigate the difficult challenges that this outbreak has produced.”

It will not provide advice for people who think they should be tested or those who require medical care.

The Kitsap Public Health District encourages people who feel that they should be evaluated for COVID-19 to contact their regular healthcare provider.

County officials are reminding residents to not call Kitsap 911 with questions about COVID-19, as the 911 dispatch center is to used for life-threatening emergencies only.

For additional information on COVID-19, go to the Washington State Department of Health’s website at doh.wa.gov/coronavirus.

PSE announces changes

Puget Sound Energy said it will not be disconnecting power to customers who have not paid their bills during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Mary E. Kipp, PSE’s president and chief executive officer, said in a letter to customers on the utility’s website that the company is also taking safety precautions in its own facilities as well as in the field.

“Energy service is essential. As the coronavirus impacts our region, we’re working to ensure our customers’ needs continue to be met while doing our part to help mitigate this serious issue,” Kipp wrote.

Safety steps include enhanced cleaning at PSE offices and workspaces, to limiting access to essential personnel.

“We’re also having employees who can work remotely stay at home. When at your home or business, our employees will utilize steps recommended by health experts, such as social distancing, and will be providing only emergency and safety-related services,” Kipp added.

Kipp said PSE had obtained approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission “for a waiver that allows PSE to suspend accrual of late fees while we continue to assess the impacts of coronavirus on our customers.”

“With so much uncertainty, we also know some customers might be worried about paying their bills. We understand the hardship local businesses and residents are facing and will not be disconnecting customers at this time,” Kipp said.

PSE also has options such as payment plans, adjusting payment due dates, and assistance funds for low-income customers through a new “EnergyHelp” portal (https://www.pse.com/pages/bill-and-weatherization-assistance) on PSE’s website.

The Puget Sound Energy Foundation is also donating $250,000 to support COVID-19 relief efforts through the Seattle Foundation and is donating to food banks to cover emergency preparations, according to PSE.

Masks, gloves in short supply

State health officials warned Wednesday of a worldwide shortage of the masks, gowns, and gloves “that keep health care safe for us and for our health care providers.”

“We are also facing a crisis in which we may not have enough space in our hospitals, nor lifesaving equipment like ventilators available for people who need them,” the Washington State Department of Health said in an online announcement.

Health officials are asking people to postpone routine medical visits, and the Department of Health said it was asking all health care facilities “to cancel or postpone visits that can be postponed. This will help keep us home and help conserve masks, gowns, and gloves.”

Washingtonians are being asked to postpone routine dental visits, adult annual exams, and routine screenings, and to stay home as much as possible for people who are at high risk of getting sick.

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