Jared Webley, Spokane County Public Policy and Communications Manager
Monday, March 16, 2020 at 2:49 p.m.
Spokane County, the City of Spokane, City of Spokane Valley, and other area municipalities announced the initiation of emergency declaration procedures that assist the organizations in a regional response to COVID-19 in the community.
The declarations are procedural and speed up the processes for county and city organizations to rapidly deploy funding and resources; seek state and federal resources; and grant greater flexibility to work with existing local labor agreements. The commissioners and mayors have been discussing emergency declaration plans as a group for several days with the Spokane County Sherriff’s Office and Spokane Regional Health District.
Spokane County Commissioners, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, and the City of Spokane Valley signed emergency declarations today and announced them at a news conference hosted by the Spokane County Department of Emergency Management. Mayors of Airway Heights, Cheney, Deer Park, Liberty Lake, Medical Lake, Millwood, and Rockford also attended and indicated plans to make similar declarations within their cities.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich directed DEM to establish the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at noon today. Establishing a regional EOC organizes the COVID-19 response under a single community effort for cooperative and collaborative planning required for an effective response to the emerging COVID-19 situation. Cities and the county have been receiving health guidance from the SRHD and planning as individual organizations for several weeks. Those efforts will formalize through the EOC.
“We are going to get through this by working together,” Knezovich said. “Our partners countywide are committed and prepared with a strong regional response that facilitates efficient access of state and federal resources.”
“Everyone in the county is feeling the impacts of COVID-19 through school closures, employment considerations, recreational and entertainment implications, and shopping and dining habits,” Spokane County Commissioners Al French said. “Overcoming this in our community will take everyone’s best effort.”
“Our cities and county are united, coordinated, and prepared as a regional partnership that is addressing community needs related to the impacts of COVID-19 on our community,” Woodward said. “We understand there is anxiety and we are urging caution, courtesy, and calm.”
The commissioners, mayors, and sheriff continued to stress the importance of following the guidance from local public health experts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Individual citizens remain the best defense against the disease by following the hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, and social distancing, especially among populations with compromised health and immune systems, being urged by the SRHD.
“We are prepared as individual entities and stronger as a collective region,” Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick said. “We are taking this step together in the best interest of our community.”
The county and cities also joined business leaders and non-profits in encouraging citizens who may be looking for alternative ways to support their favorite local businesses to consider technology options for carryout and delivery services to patronize local restaurants and grocery stores. They also requested people to exercise restraint in purchasing cleaning and household supplies in typical-use quantities.
Local governmental organizations are also working on a plan to minimize impacts to those who may fall behind on payments for sewer, water, and garbage services operated by or through their jurisdictions. Avista announced a plan to avoid shutting off electric and gas service to customers who fall behind during the COVID-19 response. Innovia is working on a plan through the foundation to assist local organizations to deliver needed resources locally.