In response to updated information about the first positive case of COVID-19 in Whatcom County and new recommendations by the Whatcom County Health Department, Mayor Seth Fleetwood has directed City departments and the Bellingham Office of Emergency Management to institute changes to City operations.
“This is a rapidly evolving and dynamic situation, and we are in constant communication with the County," Mayor Fleetwood said. “There is no need to panic, but we all need to do what we can to make sure our community is safe."
Mayor Fleetwood has convened an Operations Group, made up of City department heads and emergency managers, to determine how the City will move forward during this rapidly changing situation. The following are actions that may affect the public that the City of Bellingham has taken to address the current COVID-19 outbreak:
- All non-essential City-sponsored public meetings with more than 10 people will be canceled, consistent with the Whatcom County Health Department recommendations. The Health Department has advised that if it is feasible to avoid bringing large groups of people together, they recommend postponing or canceling events and gatherings. Because of this, the City will be canceling or postponing large non-essential City-sponsored meetings and events through the end of April that meet this threshold. All cancelation decisions for specific meetings and events will be made on a case-by-case basis by department heads. The City will re-evaluate at the end of March the question of whether to cancel meetings or events scheduled after May 1.
- Some City employees may telecommute. The Whatcom County Health Department is encouraging workplaces and businesses to provide options for their employees to work from home if possible and when needed. Mayor Fleetwood has directed City departments to find ways to increase our ability to have employees work from home.
- In addition, all City departments have instituted greater disinfecting protocols of public spaces.
Take actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19
Mayor Fleetwood is advising the public to follow the Whatcom County Health Department's recommendations as the lead agency for the COVID-19 response in our county. These actions include:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay away from other people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home to prevent spreading the infection to others.
- Don't not go to emergency rooms or urgent care clinics if your illness is mild and can be managed at home.
- Even if you are feeling well, avoid visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities or nursing homes.
- People who are sick with a cough or fever should not attend work until 72 hours after fever has resolved or seven days after illness began, whichever is longer.
“We maintain control over our own actions, and we need to take care of ourselves and follow the basic personal prevention measures recommended by our Health Department that protect us from this disease," Mayor Fleetwood said. “We all need to prepare for the eventual arrival of more confirmed cases."
Mayor Fleetwood said the primary mission of the City of Bellingham is to protect public safety and provide continuity of government services. The City is working both internally and with the community to maintain that priority.
“We are being diligent in following guidelines from the Health Department," Mayor Fleetwood said. “We will continue to communicate and collaborate both internally and with our agency partners as this situation develops in the weeks and months ahead. I have been able to observe the work of our emergency response personnel, and I commend the work of everyone who has been involved in this response. Hundreds of people have been actively involved in this effort, and they have handled a difficult situation with professionalism and competence."
The Whatcom County Health Department is the lead agency in Whatcom County on the COVID-19 response. For information updated daily, visit www.whatcomcounty.us/covid.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has established a call center to answer questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington State, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, call the DOH hotline at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.