May 8, 2020
Public Health has just release more information on the reopening of Phase 2 in Columbia County. Please read the press release before taking any action!

Businesses may not reopen until guidelines have been published on the Safe Start page of the state's website and businesses can meet those guidelines. Visit the website and check for the guidelines for your business sector. If they are there, you can start making plans to open. If not, you will need to wait until they are posted. Access to personal protective equipment (sanitizer, masks, and gloves) for local businesses will be coordinated next week.

Please be careful! We will not be allowed to move to the Phase 3 reopening if we break the rules now and people start getting sick. Let's be careful and measured as we move forward with this wonderful opportunity.
Business and Community News
Application For Variance Approved
After affirmative votes from the Columbia County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Health, and confirmation that Columbia County has an appropriate number of COVID-19 test kits on hand, has contact tracing personnel in place, has patient isolation housing secured, and has a hospital system equipped and ready to handle a potential uptick in cases, Columbia County Public Health on Tuesday submitted an application to the state for a variance to move to phase 2 of the Governor's Reopening Plan. I'm please to share that the Governor just announced in his press conference a few minutes ago that 5 counties have been approved - and one of them is Columbia County! More work needs to be done before businesses can reopen, so stay tuned for more information.

Many questions have arisen since this opportunity presented itself, including how to manage an influx of visitors from other communities with a higher infection rate than ours looking for services that they can't get in their own communities. Keeping our residents safe is a top priority for Public Health, so our agencies are working together to find a balance between allowing businesses to operate and protecting our population, especially our vulnerable senior citizens. Columbia County First will likely be the mantra for providing services.

Touchet Valley Golf Course is managing that balance by allowing members only to golf during this transition period. Some local restaurants are weighing the financial and health pros and cons of opening at 50% capacity and may choose to continue with take-out only. Good news was reported yesterday from both The Last Resort and Lyons Ferry Marina that recreationalists are following the rules and effectively social distancing. These kind of joint actions between business owners and the public will be key to allowing more businesses to reopen while keeping our residents safe.

In preparation of moving to Phase 2 reopening, plans are being made to provide operational guidelines along with a starter kit of personal protective equipment for businesses prior to reopening. Our local winery and distillery are cooking up another batch of hand sanitizer, a donation of 1,000 masks has been received, and gloves are being sourced for the starter kits. Be assured our Public Health department is doing everything they can to respect the health of our citizens while honoring the ability of many our businesses to resume operations. Here are some resources to review to give you an idea of what requirements your business may have to follow:

  • The Washington State Department of Commerce website has guidelines prepared for almost every business sector on the Safe Start page.
  • The US Department of Labor has released guidelines for different sectors on their OSHA page.
Health System Open for Business

During a recent Economic Development Steering Committee Zoom meeting, Columbia County Health System CEO Shane McGuire shared some starting health news: citizens are postponing visits to their providers even when they really need care. This is happening for a couple of reasons: fear of COVID-19 exposure and concern for overwhelming our local health system with non-virus business. This is causing a higher level of severity when medical care is eventually sought, and has caused the overall mortality rate for non-COVID deaths to increase across the nation. Columbia County is in good shape - our health facilities are open, safe, and ready to serve our community for all health needs. The attached letter from our local doctors and nurse practitioners provides good information - please click on the picture to read it and click here to read a good article by the UB . And please make sure you and the people you love are seeking medical care when needed. Thanks to all of our health care providers for keeping Columbia County safe!
All Wheels Weekend on Hold
It was a difficult decision to make, but the Dayton Chamber Board and All Wheels Weekend committee had to make it. All Wheels Weekend is canceled for 2020. This is a blow to our downtown businesses and our overall economy, and we're very sad that All Wheels Weekend won't be happening this year. However, since plans were already in progress you can still mark the event with a commemorative T-shirt celebrating the 100th anniversary of Dingle's of Dayton. The T-shirt sleeve features a Volkswagon Bug wearing a mask for a year none of us will soon forget. Contact the Chamber @ 509-382-4825 or send them an email at chamber@historicdayton.com to put in a pre-order.
Positive Support for Shop Local Campaign
The Big Hearts for Small Business campaign kicked off this week, and d aily shopping ideas are posted on the Choose Columbia County website. Social media readers who like, share or post a photo or comment about their purchase on the Chamber's Facebook or Instagram Big Hearts posts will be entered into a weekly drawing with a chance to win up to $50 in Dayton Dollars. Dayton Dollars can be spent at any Columbia County businesses and redeemed for cash by the businesses at the Chamber office. For those residents that do not use social media, you can email your receipt to the Chamber or drop it by their office to be entered in the drawing.
City of Dayton Hosting Short Course on Affordable Housing

Prior to the COVID-19 chaos, housing was a hot topic in the region. In keeping with the need to continue that work, a Dayton Short Course on Affordable Housing will be offered by the Department of Commerce via Zoom on May 12 starting at 5:00 pm. For details on registration and to view a detailed agenda of the event, visit this page on the City of Dayton website.
PPP Funding Still Available

The floodgates on PPP funding were finally opened this week as we received word from several local businesses and nonprofits that they had received approval for their loans. There is still $125 billion in funding available if you've yet to apply and still want to. Washington Federal is offering a free webinar to learn how to qualify your loan for forgiveness. Find details and registration information here.
I Could Write All Day and Never Catch Up

The firehose of information never stops in my current work world. I could add items to this newsletter all day long and never catch up! In fact, by the time I finished today's newsletter, the headline had already changed. Thank you for reading, and thank you for the words of appreciation many of you have expressed to me for the flow of information. I'm looking forward to enjoying a (hopefully) sunny Mother's Day Weekend in our beautiful county and wish you all a wonderful and safe weekend. - Jennie