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This story was originally published in the print edition of The Review on March 27.
Divided we are.
But united we stand.
Despite social distancing, a stay-at-home order for most Washingtonians, closed schools, shuttered businesses, and high anxiety over the weeks to come, the heart of the island is hurting, but still beating strong.
Residents have dug deep into their home emergency kits to pull out and donate much needed medical masks and respirators. Volunteers are sewing masks and hospital gowns. Others are making drugstore and grocery runs for neighbors who can’t leave home or family, and some are buying gift cards from Winslow businesses they know they may never redeem.
The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to spread across Bainbridge, Washington state, the country and the world, and the island continues to pull together, from a distance.
Stay Home, Stay Healthy
The coronavirus hit home, literally, for Washington state this week.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all residents to stay at home for the next two weeks.
Inslee, in a televised addressed Monday evening, also said all businesses except those considered “essential” — such as grocery stores and pharmacies — will be closed.
Gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes have also been banned.
“The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save,” Inslee said.
Under the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, people will still be able to go to grocery stores and seek health care.
Also OK: going outside for exercise or gardening, going for bike rides or taking the dog for a walk — as long as people stay at least six feet away from anyone else.
The order applies to both private and public gatherings — and includes weddings and funerals.
Although the order will run for two weeks, it may be extended.
Essential businesses also include banks, gas stations, food banks, childcare facilities, and other businesses that fill people’s basic, crucial needs.
Restaurants that provide take-out orders and deliver meals can also stay open.
“It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said. “The less time you spend out in public, the more lives we can save.”
Toll still climbing
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kitsap County increased to 27 on Wednesday, when officials with the Kitsap Public Health District announced that six more residents had recently tested positive
for the disease.
The new cases include one on Bainbridge Island.
Four of the six new cases are in South Kitsap, and another is in Bremerton.
In all, five cases of coronavirus have been found on Bainbridge.
The 27 confirmed positive COVID-19 tests in Kitsap County include:
March 25, a South Kitsap resident in their 50s;
March 25, a South Kitsap resident in their 40s;
March 25, a Bremerton resident in their 20s;
March 25, a South Kitsap resident in their 60s;
March 25, a Bainbridge Island resident in their 50s;
March 25, a South Kitsap resident in their 60s;
March 24, a Bremerton resident in their 20s;
March 23, a Bremerton resident in their 20s;
March 23, a Central Kitsap resident in their 40s;
March 22, a Central Kitsap resident in their 60s;
March 22, a Central Kitsap resident in their 40s;
March 22, a Bremerton resident in their 20s;
March 21, a North Kitsap resident in their 20s;
March 21, a North Kitsap resident in their 50s;
March 21, a North Kitsap resident in their 50s;
March 19, a North Kitsap resident in their 30s;
March 19, a Bainbridge Island resident in their 70s;
March 19, a North Kitsap resident in their 50s;
March 18, a North Kitsap resident in their 60s;
March 18, a South Kitsap resident in their 30s;
March 16, a Bainbridge Island resident in their 40s;
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.
Statewide, there has been 2,469 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 123 deaths from the virus through March 24, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
A disclaimer on the numbers, from the Department of Health: “Public health experts agree that the true number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 in Washington greatly exceeds the number of COVID-19 infections that have been laboratory-confirmed.”
“It is very difficult to know exactly how many people in Washington have been infected to date since most people with COVID-19 experience mild illness and the ability to get tested is still not widely available.”
Here to help
It turned out to be last call for gin, whiskey and vodka at Bainbridge Organic Distillers this week.
For a month at least.
The mid-sized distillery, located in the Coppertop business park diverted its production of vodka, gin and whiskey to making hand sanitizer instead.
Distillery owner Keith Barnes said the company’s grain grower in Walla Walla County donated 26,000 pounds of grain to kick off the project. The grain — corn — arrived in large, one-ton bags.
Barnes said Bainbridge Organic Distillers expects to produce at least 100 gallons of hand sanitizer per week that will distributed to hospitals, medical facilities, first responders, and the military.
“The majority of what we are making are in five-gallon buckets,” Barnes said.
That will be sent to hospitals and clinics, as well as the Navy’s submarine base in Bangor, and the Bainbridge Island Fire Department.
In the near future, Bainbridge Organic Distillers hopes to being packaging hand sanitizer in small bottles for the general public.
“We’re scrambling to line up enough bottles to do some of it in smaller sizes,” he explained.
It will take four days to produce three batches of sanitizer. And once larger distilleries start producing hand sanitizer, Barnes said his distillery may shift back to making spirits.
“Obviously, we didn’t get into this business to make hand sanitizer. It’s a crisis situation, and having the ability to do it is great,” he said.
Downtown ghost town
Many of the businesses in downtown Winslow have been closed for the past week.
John Eisenhauer, managing partner at MARE, the owners of the Pavilion, said the governor’s earlier order that shut down dine-in restaurants, gyms and movie theaters basically closed down the Pavilion.
But he said he was more worried about downtown businesses and their ability to make it through the coronavirus crisis, and said he hopes the community will help the business community make it through the pandemic.
“Restaurants in particular are not sitting on large piles of cash,” he said.
“If we’re going to have restaurants at the other end of this, we need to do be doing something proactively in between to keep these folks.”
Eisenhauer said he’s been aggressively looking for ways to promote the places that are staying open for deliveries or curbside service.
On his end, he said the Pavilion’s parking lot will be used as a big drive-thru, and waiters who would have otherwise been out of work are being used as runners for curbside service, or to make meal deliveries to people in the neighborhood.
Every bit helps, Eisenhauer added.
“Even just buying a gift certificate for later, to let these folks know you want them to be in businesses at whatever end of this there is,” he said.
Eisenhauer also suggested that islanders check first with local retailers, before turning to Amazon, and asking about delivery services.
“I just want to lend any voice and support we can to keep people mindful that it is a legitimate risk that we get to the other end of this and every single retail location on Winslow Way and the Pavilion has a ‘For Lease’ sign,” he said.
“These are your neighbors,” Eisenhauer said.
Health officer asks for help
In a letter to the community this week, Kitsap County Health Officer Susan Turner asked Kitsap residents for their “cooperation, patience, and understanding” as the health district continues to search for ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the county.
“Although much remains to be learned about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19, we do know the following:
COVID-19 may cause symptoms similar to flu and colds;
Most people may experience no or mild symptoms, but some people may get very ill and can die;
People who are at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms and complications are those 60 years and older and people with underlying health conditions;
COVID-19 infections are increasing in our community;
COVID-19 is spread most easily through close contact or direct contact with infected individuals;
Infected individuals may spread the disease without having symptoms, or may spread the disease before any symptoms are evident;
There are no vaccines or antivirals available yet to prevent or cure the disease;
Social distancing ‘tools’ are the best community methods we have currently to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Turner asked residents to abide by Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy.”
“Stay home except for ESSENTIAL activities. All members of the public should stay at home until April 6,” Turner said.
People should not go out unless they are getting necessary supplies for family members such as groceries; getting medical or behavioral health services or getting medical supplies or medicine; caring for a family member, or a friend or pet in another household; or exercising outdoors in individual pursuits (walking, hiking, running, biking).
Turner said workers should stay home if they are sick, and employers should screen or ask about the COVID-19 health status of each of their employees on a daily basis.
If any employees have COVID-19 symptoms, she added, they should be sent home immediately (or isolated at work until they can go home) and remain at home for at least seven days from symptom onset, or 72 hours after fever is resolved without the help of any medications and other symptoms are improving, whichever is longer.
Park closure extended
The Bainbridge park district has extended its closure of all activities, facilities, and sports fields until April 27.
“With the continued health crisis in our area, it is in the best interest of the agency and our community to remain closed,” the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District said in an announcement late last week.
Summer registration has also been postponed until further notice for programs and events.
“The recommendations from the state governor’s office, Kitsap Public Health District, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggest using the closure for proper social distancing and to give our staff and community time to remain healthy. The park district is also doing its part to support all other public agencies and keep our workforce employed,” the announcement said.
Refunds will be issued for programs and events that have been canceled, the district said, and refunds will be issued as a credit. Those who want a refund via check or credit card should contact the park district.
Officials said Bainbridge parks will remain open to the public.
People should not use parks or trails if they have symptoms of an illness, and park visitors should be prepared for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains. Visitors should also follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the size of social gatherings, and observe the CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times.
No vehicle access
Bainbridge park officials announced Tuesday that the park district has shut off vehicle access to parks on the island.
Bikers and walkers are welcome, but leave the car at home.
The move followed the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order that encourages people to stay home, avoid gathering in groups, and adhere to proper social distancing guidelines.
Park facilities that remain closed include all bathrooms, playgrounds, camping areas, dog parks, disc golf, tennis and pickleball courts, water drinking stations, and sports fields.
In a message Tuesday, the park district said facilities are being closed for the length of the proclamation “for the safety of our users and staff.”
Parks will still be accessible for people walking and bicyclists.
Meal program a big hit
More than 1,500 meals were handed out to children and youth last week by the Bainbridge Island School District’s Grab & Go Meal Program.
The Grab & Go Meal Program ran for three days last week, and the meals are free for youth ages 2 through 18, and youth must be present to receive a meal.
While the program originally distributed meals at Ordway Elementary, Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary and Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary, the meals will not be exclusively distributed at Ordway between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Online learning on the way
District Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen said the school district is planning to distribute student devices for online learning late this week.
In an online announcement, Bang-Knudsen said the district’s technology team and para-educators worked over the past weekend to collect, clean and plan for the eventual distribution of the technology.
The school district has also set up a “one-stop-shop website” to help support students’ learning.
The website includes links to district, school and third-party resources that students and families can use while public schools on the island are closed and teachers are unable to provide face-to-face learning in classrooms. The website is at https://sites.google.com/bisd303.org/distancelearningfamilies/home.
Washington State Ferries is continuing to shed riders as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.
The number of passengers on the Bainbridge Island-Seattle route dropped to 1,373 by Monday, March 23.
That’s down from 3,094 from the previous Monday (March 16), and from 5,571 two weeks earlier (Monday, March 9).
The passenger count from Monday, Feb. 17 was 9,336, according to Washington State Ferries.
The number of vehicles carried on the Bainbridge-Seattle route dropped to 2,017 on Monday, March 23.
That’s nearly a thousand-vehicle drop in the span of a week.
A total of 2,931 vehicles came aboard the Bainbridge-Seattle run on Monday, March 16.
According to WSF, Bainbridge ferries carried 4,108 vehicles on Monday, March 2 and 4,785 on Monday, Feb. 17.
Commemoration ceremony called off
The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community will not hold its annual commemoration ceremony on March 30, the day 78 years ago when the first of 120,000 Japanese Americans to be forcibly removed and exiled from the
West Coast during World War II.
It will be the first time in 18 years that the event has been canceled, said Clarence Moriwaki, president of the nonprofit Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community.
“We expect that the memorial site will continue to be open to visitors, and those who are in good health may choose to join for a moment of silence at 11 a.m. on that day, Monday, March 30,” Moriwaki said in the announcement.
“Health and safety for everyone are our paramount concerns, especially for our remaining beloved and vulnerable survivors of whom we wish to honor,” he added.
The commemoration ceremony at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is one of BIJAC’s three big annual events, which also include Mochi Tsuki at Woodward Middle School in January, and the community’s summer picnic at Battle Point Park in August.
KT stops taking fares
Kitsap Transit has stopped collecting fares on all of its services until further notice as part of its efforts to combat the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
Officials said the move was made “to minimize interactions at the farebox and protect the health of its bus operators and ferry deckhands.”
The emergency fare-free policy applies to all services, including routed buses, ACCESS transportation, worker/driver rides, vanpool, ferries and the Annapolis Park & Ride.
Kitsap Transit also announced that reservations on the Bremerton Fast Ferry will be temporarily suspended.
The agency’s fast ferries will be filled on a walk-up basis only, with capacity limited to 46 passengers. Health-care workers and first responders will receive priority boarding and must show their official identification to Kitsap Transit’s representative at the dock.
Also, Kitsap Transit bus operators will be asking passengers to follow social distancing guidelines and stay behind the yellow line at the front of the bus to maintain 6 feet of distance from the bus driver.
Public access curtailed
Bainbridge Island officials did not allow the public to attend the city council’s meeting Tuesday.
City officials had earlier announced the number of people allowed into council chambers for the meeting will be cut to 10 — and that includes the seven-member council and staff.
The agenda for the council meeting was limited to an update on COVID-19 response efforts, transactional items required for business continuity, and a previously noticed public hearing on whether to extend the city’s development moratorium for an additional six months.
During the public hearing, the city let people into council chambers on a one-by-one basis to give their statements on the moratorium extension.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted other government agencies to adjust their public meeting schedules.
The board of commissioners for the Bainbridge Island Fire Department canceled its last meeting, and the Bainbridge park district announced the board meeting planned for April 2 has been called off.
Bainbridge city officials said they have been be working to implement options that will allow participation for public meetings via telephone.
In the meantime, however, all city advisory group and committee meetings have been canceled through April 30. All community training and workshops are also canceled through April 30.
The city said it won’t accept new reservations for meetings at city facilities through April 30.
The Boaters Fair, scheduled for Saturday, May 2, has also been canceled.
Police scale back
Bainbridge police will not be responding to “keep the peace”-type calls during the COVID-19 outbreak. Police also won’t do civil standbys unless there is a court order.
The Bainbridge Island Police Department has suspended its ride-along program, and its Community Police Academy has also been canceled.
The department said it will not accept new concealed weapon permit applications until April 30.
Potential quarantine sites eyed
Kitsap County officials have found two sites on Bainbridge Island for potential use as quarantine sites to “supplement health care capacity during COVID-19,” the city of Bainbridge Island said late last week.
The city is working to support the county’s review of the two options “and will assist with planning and implementation if these resources are activated. The decision related to these plans is ongoing,” the city said in an update to its COVID-19 response efforts.
Bainbridge Island City Hall will also stay closed to the public until April 3, city officials announced last Friday.
The closure also includes Bainbridge Island Municipal Court in Rolling Bay and the police station in downtown Winslow.
Officials said city services can be accessed through the web, by email and by telephone. (Go to https://www.bainbridgewa.gov/1213/COVID-19 for details.)
The Kitsap County Emergency Management said possible quarantine sites for those with COVID-19 won’t be announced until they have been established.
In an email to the Review, Dave Rasmussen, spokesman for Kitsap County Emergency Management, said when those sites have been established “to assist and support those impacted by COVID-19 in Kitsap County, there will be an announcement.”
The Bank of Corona
In sickness and in health, park district employees are standing together.
Terry Lande, executive director of the park district, said the agency has set up a system where workers can donate sick leave to other employees who need more time off.
Lande said the program has earned a nickname: The Bank of Corona.
“You have to have some humor in this thing,” he said.
If an employee doesn’t feel well and needs to stay at home, or if an employee needs to be away from work to provide care for another family member, they can use donated sick leave from other park workers so their own sick leave hours won’t be tapped out.
“You can use the hours that have been donated to that bank of sick leave, that way it won’t affect your sick leave,” Lande explained.
The park district has approximately 225 employees.
Bainbridge parks has also been working to help employees who have seen a reduction in hours by having them switch to other activities, such as ramped-up cleaning efforts, to help workers avoid getting fewer hours on their paychecks.
Lande added that the park district is also offering child care for first responders, doctors, nurses and others who need to go to work during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Community steps up
Bainbridge asked, and the community answered the call.
City officials announced a donation drive last week for personal protective equipment needed for health care workers, including items such as surgical masks, safety goggles, medical gowns, and N95 respirators.
Officials said the drive, which was done through curb-side drop-offs at city hall, resulted in the collection of 950 N95s, 200 surgical masks, 60 safety goggles, 16 face shields, 80 bottles of hand sanitizer, 120 hand-sewn face masks, and hundreds of gloves.
The city has already handed out protective equipment and cleaning supplies for Helpline House, Bainbridge Pediatrics, and Bainbridge Island Senior Living.
Curbside drop-offs will continue next week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday in front of city hall.
A large group of citizens have stepped up to help, as well.
City spokeswoman Kristen Drew said the city has roughly 320 emergency management volunteers, and another 130 people have signed up to help during the COVID-19 outbreak response.
WSF stays on winter schedule
Washington State Ferries will continue to use the winter sailing schedule due to fewer riders coming aboard state ferries due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the state.
WSF had earlier planned to switch to the spring sailing schedule, which includes increased service on some routes, on March 29.
But WSF officials announced Monday that the winter sailing schedule will stay in place through April 25, at least.
The added service had been expected for the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route (a third vessel on the weekend); the Anacortes-San Juan Islands (inter-island weekend service and added afternoon sailings); and the Anacortes-Friday Harbor-Sidney, British Columbia run (one round trip to Canada daily had been planned).
“We know schedule changes affect many people and we don’t make these decisions lightly,” said Amy Scarton, head of WSF.
“But following discussions with health authorities and state officials we had to make this difficult decision in order to help slow the spread of the virus while still preserving some service options,” she said.
WSF officials said system-wide ridership has been consistently down an average of 40 percent over the past week, which equates to about 15,000 to 30,000 fewer riders compared with the same days in late February 2020 and dates in 2019.
Staying on the winter sailing schedule will allow WSF to get ready for impacts from the COVID-19 outbreak that could disrupt service, including a decline in ridership due to public health recommendations, and the availability of sufficient crew to meet federal requirements.
City revenues to take a hit
Bainbridge city officials won’t know the full impact of the financial toll that the coronavirus outbreak is having on city sales tax revenues for another two months or so.
That’s because there is a two-month delay, approximately, between the time of sale and when the city receives sales tax revenue.
According to the city’s figures for February, retail trade sales tax revenues amounted to $173,507 (or 34.95 percent of the total amount of sales tax revenues received).
Also, sales tax revenue typically declines between February and April.
Triage sites set up
CHI Franciscan has set up 11 triage sites to assess possible COVID-19 patients, including one on Bainbridge Island at the Wintergreen Walk commercial center on High School Road and Highway 305.
Franciscan Medical Clinic-Bainbridge Island is located at 1344 Wintergreen Lane NE, where it shares a building with the Virginia Mason Bainbridge Island Medical Center.
CHI Franciscan is asking people who have a fever and cough and are at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection to go to a triage site to be assessed.
People who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection include healthcare workers, first responders, nursing home residents, patients with severe lung illness or chronic disease, those who have been exposed to a known COVID-19 patient, pregnant women, and those older than 60 years.
Two other triage centers have been set up in Kitsap County; at Harrison Port Orchard Urgent Care and The Doctors Clinic Ridgetop East-Silverdale.
CHI Franciscan is also offering free urgent care visits for people who have mild COVID-19 symptoms, which include coughing, low-grade fever or mild respiratory problems.
People must register first for a virtual visit, and CHI Franciscan noted that callers may experience longer than usual wait times.
“While this is not ideal, staying at home and waiting is the best way to prevent the spread of illness,” CHI Franciscan said on its website. “Once you have registered for your visit, there is an option to receive a text notification when the provider is ready to see you.”
The fee for an assessment is typically $35, but people can enter a discount code (COVID19) at franciscanvirtualcare.org to have the fee waived.
Jobless numbers skyrocket
The number of new unemployment claims more than doubled in Washington state last week.
The number of claims increased over 116 percent during week of March 8-14, officials said.
According to the Employment Security Department, a total of 14,154 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed with the department. That’s an increase of 7,606 new claims over the previous week.
State officials said new unemployment insurance claims are just beginning to rise due to layoffs related to the spread of COVID-19 in Washington.
The highest percentage of new claims occurred in the accommodation and food services sector — up 597.3 percent.
Educational services saw the second-largest increase (up 569.5 percent), followed by arts, entertainment and recreation (up 255.8 percent), and real estate, rental and leasing (up 147.5 percent).
Workers who are 34 years of age and younger represented the largest group of people filing new claims, according to the Employment Security Department.
The numbers of new unemployment claims are expected to climb even higher by next week.
“A dramatically larger number of employers are announcing coronavirus-related layoffs or are utilizing SharedWork, so we anticipate substantially higher numbers of new claims in the report that will come out on March 26,” said Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine.
“Already this week, we have seen the daily rate of new claims coming in at levels that are similar to the highest weeks of the 2008-2009 recession,” she added.
“Our agency is working in close coordination with the governor’s office as well as other state and federal agencies to ensure we do everything we can to address this crisis and find every support possible for Washington’s families and economy. Our priorities are to get benefits out more quickly to those who are eligible, help more people become eligible for benefits and help those employers who are hiring get the staff they need right now,” LeVine said.
Washington state has set up an online form so businesses can get clarification or submit a request for inclusion as essential under the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation.
The online form is available at www.coronavirus.wa.gov.
Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation defines essential and non-essential businesses and workers related to the COVID-19 emergency response, and businesses are urged to use the portal to determine their essential/non-essential status.
State officials said there have been widely circulated rumors that people need a letter or pass to continue moving about, or to leave home to do essential business or other activities.
That’s not the case, officials said. No official letter or pass is needed.
“This is a difficult time for all of us, and we recognize the hardship on many businesses and families,” said Washington State Commerce Director Lisa Brown.
“As Governor Inslee said Monday night, we want to get back to normal as soon as possible, and to do that, we have to hit this hard,” Brown added. “We are taking steps to relieve and mitigate the economic impacts of this action to the greatest extent possible.”
Protect your health
According to the health district, everyone should take simple steps to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.
Wash hands often with soap and water;
Cover coughs and sneezes with an elbow or tissue;
Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
Clean and disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces; and
Stay home when sick and avoid close contact with others.
Practice social distancing
The health district advises folks to practice social distancing. Social distancing means keeping extra space between yourself and others to reduce the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19.
Keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others whenever possible;
Stay home as much as you can;
Avoid crowded areas;
Greet people without touching; and
Help family and friends who need assistance staying home.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Most people who have COVID-19 experience mild illness similar to a cold or flu. If you are sick, you should stay home and rest. If you feel you need medical evaluation or you are at higher risk for serious illness, stay home and call your health care provider for guidance.