PORT & CHAMBER UPDATES
July 10, 2020
Business and Community News
Columbia County COVID-19 Updates
One of the latest directives from the state required that all staff in skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) be tested for COVID-19. Columbia County Health System is proud to announce that 100% of the Booker Rest Home staff tested negative. CEO Shane McGuire credited this to the diligence of staff in taking needed precautions while outside of work to avoid exposure to the virus. Nursing homes have been a hotbed of infection during this pandemic, so kudos to our local health care system for beating the odds and keeping our precious elders safe!
COVID cases have been on the rise again in the State of Washington since Memorial Day Weekend. Columbia County has 1 new positive case as of yesterday, and our neighboring Garfield County is just this week experiencing its first case of the pandemic. Luckily all previous positive cases in Columbia County have recovered. You can see daily case updates at the Columbia County Public Health website, and more detailed information on their COVID-19 page, including links to updated business guidelines, information about testing, health care provider contact information, and more.

The Governor and the Secretary of Health have issued a statewide mandatory face covering order requiring masks be worn when in a public space, both indoor and outdoor. A second No Mask, No Service Order mandating businesses to require face coverings for all employees and customers, and halting county advancements in the Safe Start process, is also in effect now.

While wearing a mask can be irritating, it helps keep our community members safe and our businesses open. Business owners are doing the best they can to make a living in a difficult time. Besides providing local jobs, businesses are the economic engines that keep things running. Because our state has no personal income tax, revenue from sales tax and business and occupation taxes funds 2/3 of the services provided in our state and our community.

We are so fortunate to live in a county that is already in phase 3, has a low virus case count, has ample outdoor recreation opportunities, and where social distancing is part of our everyday lives. Thank you for your help in following the guidelines and treating business owners and staff with kindness and respect. Wear a mask and shop local!
More Business Assistance Coming, But Process Not Open Yet
Columbia County's unemployment rate held nearly steady in May at 10.5% compared to April at 10.4%. June rates have not yet been released. The state rate dropped from to 15.8% to 14.8 over the same time period.

Additional emergency assistance is on its way for businesses and nonprofits. The Port has received or will be the conduit for funds from three different sources, but we do not yet have enough details on this funding to start the application process. A special eNewsletter will be sent out as soon as the process is open, so watch for an email from the Port.

In the meantime, the Port has hired intern Keegan Milsten for the summer months. Keegan will be entering his second year at WSU this fall and is a computer science major. He has already vastly improved the functionality of the Port's websites, and was a great help through the first round of small business grants. Keegan has updated the COVID-19 Business Resource document on the Port's website, and he is also available to assist businesses with websites, e-commerce, or other technology needs before he heads back to school in mid-August. He can be reached by calling 382-2577 or via email at grants@portofcolumbia.org .
Plans for Fall & Feeding Our Children
The Dayton School District provided the following information regarding food assistance for students:

All students in grades K-5 are eligible to receive a Pandemic EBT card. Students in grades 6-12 that receive free or reduced price meal benefits are eligible. Students receiving Basic Food benefits and have an EBT card will automatically receive the P-EBT on your EBT card. If you have questions or need more information please contact Jana Eaton, Food Services Director, at the Dayton School District office at 509-382-2543. Apply online at https://www.washingtonconnection.org/home/ or call 877-501-2233.

New superintendent Guy Strot officially started work July 1. Click here to read a letter from our new education leader about plans for the fall school year, including a timeline for decision making.
16th District Candidates Forum
Several groups in Walla Walla have joined forced to bring us a 16th District Candidate Forum via Zoom Live Webinar on July 16th at 6:30 pm. The 2020 Virtual Candidate Forum is hosted by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, American Association of University Women (AAUW), Whitman College Politics Department, Walla Walla Association of Realtors, La Voz, and the Walla Walla Latino Alliance. Register today and get the opportunity to meet your candidates and representatives.

Registration is free and open to the public. Click here to register.
Evening NOT at the Depot
In an effort to raise needed funds for operations, the Dayton Historic Depot Society has changed up their normal Evening at the Depot event for this year in order to hold a fundraiser while following the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. This year's event will consist of an online auction running July 25 - August 1, culminating with a fun Zoom event on the evening of August 1. While the auction is not open yet, information about the auction and tickets for the Zoom event can be found at here.
Sherwood Trust Leadership Program
Sherwood Trust is once again offering a leadership class to residents in the Walla Walla Valley. This program helps individuals develop skills as a leader and as an engaged community member. You can apply through this online application form.
Assisted Living Plan Takes Shape
Columbia County Health System CEO Shane Mcguire and the CCHS board of commissioners have been working on a Aging in the Community transitional housing plan for several years. Right now there is a gap in housing available in the community for those that want to transition from their lifelong homes but are not yet ready for the nursing home. At a recent board meeting, McGuire was given approval to move forward with the construction of 3 less institutionalized, more assisted living-style units. Each unit can provide housing for 10 people, and can better meet the needs of many of our community members. Like nursing homes all over the country, ours has been operating at a loss for many years as the government medicare and medicaid reimbursement rates do not even come close to covering the true cost of care. To continue serving the skilled nursing sector, CCHS will need to adapt, and this Aging in the Community housing model will help them do that. McGuire is starting work with an architect and developer on the 3 units.
VIVE to Reopen
A local favorite health and wellness center is reopening after a long COVID closure. VIVE is operated by Levi Sowerby, a health and wellness coach that provides customized plans to meet your goals. VIVE will be open again on Monday, July 13. Hours are Monday through Friday 6-8 a.m. and 4:30-7 p.m. Call 828-989-1347 with any questions or visit their Facebook Page.