ARLINGTON – The coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak may not be wreaking havoc on society the way a natural disaster like an earthquake would, but it’s quickly shaking everyday staples of community life upside down.
The recently declared pandemic has prompted local officials to consider lengthy school closures, cancel or reschedule holiday events and concerts, and postpone non-essential meetings all as a means to create more “social distancing,” while elder care facilities and churches are adopting more acute measures to keep individuals and the community safe, especially to the elderly who are more vulnerable to the virus.
Gov. Jay Inslee made it mandatory Thursday for school to close for six weeks, until April 24, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Nearby Lakewood already had planned to close for six weeks, while Marysville had decided on four. Arlington was going to decide Thursday night, and is now discussing next steps.
Due to the governor’s earlier announcements regarding gatherings, APS had changed its position on after-school events, and is canceling them until further notice.
Canceled or postponed events include AHS Drama’s “Once Upon a Mattress” performances, sports competitions, award banquets, band and choir concerts, parent information nights, all outside user group activities, PTA events and out-of-state field trips.
To date, there have been no district students or staff members who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
When a pandemic was declared and three people had coronavirus at a Stanwood care center just days ago, including a man in his 80s who died, Gov. Jay Inslee said residents in such facilities should only have one visitor per day. A woman in her 80s later died, the third in Snohomish County out of 75 who have tested positive and 82 more suspected to have it. Statewide, there have been 366 confirmed cases and 30 deaths.
Inslee also banned large events of 250 people or more in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, except for schools and workplaces. Health experts say the outbreak will peak in the next month or two then subside. They are basing that on outbreaks in Italy and China, where the virus originated. An Everett man in his 30s who went to China, who became the first known case in the U.S., has recovered.
City and county leaders late last week recommended gatherings of 50 or more to be limited, based on advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, because the closer the contact the higher the risk of transmission, Snohomish Health District is recommending that people keep a safe “social” distance from each other of around 6 feet. It also recommends working from home if possible.
Elder care facilities
After the coronavirus struck a Kirkland care center last month where 22 people died confirmed to have COVID-19, Arlington-area assisted living centers got proactive beyond standard procedures for limiting seasonal cold and flu outbreaks.
Cascade Valley Senior Living carried out their preparedness plan for virus exposures, including influenza and norovirus. Directors on their website vowed to share information and raise awareness about the coronavirus, while monitoring new details and guidelines from CDC, state agencies and local health departments.
The Stillaguamish Senior Center is closed to protect the safety of older adults. While staff will still be onsite that won’t include providing services or meals. The Thrift Store was closed, but may be open again. Call 360-657-4309 to find out.
The senior center’s health fair has been rescheduled to May 20.
Local places of worship are taking measuresthat include limiting traditional practices and directing elderly parishioners and those not feeling good to stay home and watch their video-streamed church services.
Arlington Assembly Church said that based on health district regulations meant to help protect at-risk groups such as people over 60 years old, pregnant and with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, church services are not including child care, and Sunday worship services are being held for families in the auditorium. At-risk groups can join online for live-streaming, Pastor Ryan Kramer said. If Arlington cancels school, all Sunday worship will be by live-steam only, Wednesday night church activities will be canceled and the church office closed.
Kramer said the church has reached out to local officials and school administrators to see how they might help assist hardest-hit low-income families and students on the free lunch program.
“I shared with our staff today that we must show our community through all this that we aren’t a church for worship services, but a church for people,” he said.
Arlington Lifeway Foursquare Church downtown and Smokey Point Community Church are also streaming their services on YouTube and elsewhere to help combat spreading the coronavirus.
Teams at both churches have spent extra time cleaning and sanitizing their facilities.
Lifeway Church leaders encouraged members to make sure that they have had at least three days without symptoms before coming to church.
Pastor Chad Blood in a letter to parishioners added: “As much as you might miss it, we will not greet each other with a ‘holy kiss’ – so you may need to practice elbow bumping during our greet time.”
City officials Thursday said they moving forward with operational changes in line with federal, state and county guidelines to encourage social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
“We want all residents to know that we are taking very seriously our role in preventing the spread of the virus,” the mayor said. “We regret any inconvenience caused, but our citizens’ health and safety is our first priority.”