Clark County recommends canceling large events over coronavirus concerns

Several school districts are also canceling activities, and may close in the coming days

CLARK COUNTY — There remains only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Clark County however, in an about-face from 24 hours ago, public health officials are recommending that events with groups of more than 250 people be canceled.

“We’re making these recommendations in an effort to help slow the spread of the virus in our community,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and public health director. “By slowing the spread of the virus, we can protect those in our community who are at risk for severe illness and lessen the impact to our health care system.”

Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick. Photo by Jacob Granneman

Public Health announced Thursday morning that seven more tests had come back from the state health lab, all negative for infection. The sole confirmed case remains a man in his 70s who is in isolation at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

“An isolated patient occupies a single patient room with the goal of creating a safe barrier designed to protect other patients and visitors,” said hospital spokesperson Debra Carnes. “The room is monitored closely. Anyone entering the room dons Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that includes a mask, gown and eye protection to ensure their safety and to prevent any spreading of the virus.”

The recommendation on canceling large gatherings includes concerts, festivals, conferences, conventions, worship services, sporting events, and similar events or activities.

The state department of public health has issued a list of recommendations for event organizers.

Washington State University Vancouver is one of many colleges going to distance learning following spring break over concerns about the coronavirus. Photo by Mike Schultz
Washington State University Vancouver is one of many colleges going to distance learning following spring break over concerns about the coronavirus. Photo by Mike Schultz

Earlier today, organizers of the Velocity Dance Competition, which was scheduled this weekend for the Vancouver Hilton, notified attendees that they would be postponing the event.

On Thursday morning, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that schools in King, Pierce, and Snohomish County would be closing by next Tuesday, and will not reopen until at least April 24, affecting nearly 600,000 students and their parents.

State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal recommended that all school districts in the state begin planning for potential cancellations in the near future. That would include how to provide support for students who rely on school nutrition programs, or who are experiencing homelessness.

So far, Clark County Public Health has not recommended closing schools, but several districts have taken the step of canceling or postponing after school activities, including Evergreen and Ridgefield School Districts.

The governor has ordered school superintendents to provide no-cost childcare services for families in which one or more of the parents is involved in the healthcare industry, so as not to remove workers from hospitals that are preparing for numerous patients in the coming weeks.

There have been 457 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington State, up from just over 350 on Wednesday. 270 of those are in King County, with 108 in Snohomish and 17 in Pierce County. 46 confirmed cases were labeled “unassigned.”

Statewide, the death toll rose by one, to 31 people. 19 of those were from an adult care center in Kirkland.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference earlier this month. Photo courtesy Governor Jay Inslee’s Office
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference earlier this month. Photo courtesy Governor Jay Inslee’s Office

Nationally, the NCAA on Thursday said it was canceling March Madness tournaments for both mens and womens teams. The NBA announced on Wednesday it was suspending games after two players on the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. Today, they announced the suspension will be reevaluated after 30 days. 

Other major sports have also postponed or canceled games, including Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the fledgling XFL, which said all remaining games will be canceled, but they intend to return in 2021.

Disneyland announced Thursday they would be shutting down their California amusement parks effective March 14, through at least the end of the month. Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park is also closing.

“While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the governor of California’s executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month,” Walt Disney Co. wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon.

The move came following public pressure, after California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the cancellation of any gatherings over 250 people, though he said the state’s most popular attraction was exempted from the order.

“Late last night, California put out a new policy on mass gatherings and engaged in deep conversations with Disney and other companies about how to meet it,” Newsom said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. “Using that policy, Disney made the right call in the interest of public health and agreed to shut down their California parks.”

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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