LONG BEACH — Long Beach City Hall reopened Monday, July 27, after a short closure stemming from Mayor Jerry Phillips testing positive for covid-19.
Long Beach City Administrator David Glasson said the city was acting with an “abundance of caution” when it locked up city offices on Bolstad Avenue. The closure was to ensure the building was clear of active virus particles before staff return, Glasson said.
Phillips was the first Washington mayor to be diagnosed with the virus. Phillips said in a July 23 phone interview that he did not wish to go into detail about his symptoms, and said he is still able to do city business. His isolation is expected to end July 30. Phillips is still attending video meetings.
In a news conference Thursday, July 23, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wished Phillips well.
Phillips was tested July 16 after one of his close contacts began showing symptoms of the disease and began isolating. Once Phillips believed he was exposed to the virus, he did not return to city hall, Glasson said. Someone can be exposed to the virus if they are within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes, according to health officials.
Phillips plays a leading role in the local response to the covid-19 pandemic as a member of the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Council, which comprises the county’s four elected mayors, three county commissioners and sheriff.
As part of his response to the pandemic, Phillips sought out a sewer testing pilot program with Biobot Analytics, Inc. The Massachusetts-based company wants to map the spread of covid-19 by testing city sewers because the virus that causes the disease, SARS-CoV-2, can be found in stool samples.
Phillips’ test results came back Sunday, July 19, the same day a sample of Long Beach’s sewers showed virus concentration levels four times higher than a previous sample taken July 5. Based on the concentration levels of the virus in Long Beach’s sewer system, Biobot’s estimate of active cases in the city rose to 85, almost three times as many as the previous estimate of 30.
Based on the Pacific County Health Department’s exposure criteria of being within 6 feet for 15 minutes, after Phillips was confirmed to have the disease, health officials warned Glasson that he might have been exposed. Glasson did not return to city hall Monday, July 20. He later tested negative for the virus.
By Wednesday, the city became aware of more symptoms being reported within the office. That was what led to the decision to close the building to kill off any virus possibly lingering on surfaces or in the air, Glasson said.
“We can do a lot of stuff remotely now,” Glasson said. “That isn’t as big a deal as it used to be three or four months ago.”
Cases concentrated in south county
Cases in Pacific County rose to 30 on Friday, July 24. Prior to those additional cases, Pacific County health officials broke down where 26 cases in Pacific County were located. Out of those 26 cases, 22 involved people living in the county at the time of their diagnosis. Of those 22 cases, 15 involved people living in South Pacific County, while seven involved people living in North Pacific County.
“The fact of the matter is, cases are going up,” Glasson said. He encouraged everyone to wear their masks and wash their hands often.
Since July 1, the number of covid-19 cases in Pacific County rose to 30 from 18, as of Tuesday, July 28. In the same time period, Grays Harbor County covid-19 cases rose to 81 from 26. Both counties rely heavily on tourism to maintain the local economies.
“The tourism related infections are challenging for us, because we get pulled in different directions,” Inslee said.
One community will ask people to stay away, meanwhile another community will advertise on television about great hiking and fishing in its area, Inslee said. If a community wants to try and reduce travelers to it, Inslee said his office would try to get out that message. For the state overall, Inslee recommended thinking twice about unnecessary travel.
“You should be very cautious about any travel when you’re inside anywhere,” Inslee said. “... Anytime being inside with people who are not in your household, if you could put that off a little bit that sure would be great for everybody.”
As of July 26 at 11:59 p.m., the statewide confirmed case count stood at 53,321 and there had been 1,518 fatalities.