The previous day’s COVID-19-related updates given by Gov. Jay Inslee, as well as the extension of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, were touched on during Wednesday’s COVID-19 Business Information Series webinar sponsored by Tacoma-Pierce County’s Chamber and Economic Development Board and the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance.
But the main focus of Wednesday’s presentation was the statuses of various local entities. Presenters on those subjects included Col. Skye Duncan, JBLM Garrison commander; John Caulfield, Lakewood city manager; Sue Dreier, CEO of Pierce Transit; and David Carlson, the chief physician officer at MultiCare.
Key discussion topics included the following:
Duncan spoke about specific actions that have been implemented on base during the epidemic. Teleworking, Duncan said, has allowed a dramatic reduction in the numbers of people that are on the base each day. Many on-base areas have been closed, such as barber shops and non-essential stores, yet restaurants, for example, remain open for carry-out only. The six schools on base also are closed, though childcare providers still are open for those that still need to be present each day.
“We are trying to keep the bare minimum open to provide food, clothing, and shelter,” Duncan said.
Caulfield summarized what his city is doing after having declared its own emergency status early on. The City of Lakewood has set up its own COVID-19 webpage, closed its senior centers and city parks (though parks have recently been reopened for “passive” purposes), automatically extended permits, and ordered those municipal workers who could do so to begin working from home.
“From an operations perspective, the City has not missed a beat,” Caulfield said, while also emphasizing a letter the City sent to the governor encouraging them to open up some WSDOT construction projects to take advantage of the lessened traffic. He also touched on the many partnerships the City has engaged in, the number of City-sponsored events that have been cancelled, and the issue of determining which businesses are “essential” versus “non-essential.”
Of the current situation at Pierce Transit, its CEO Drier – who noted her agency does provide an “essential” service – spoke of the importance of keeping people safe on busses. All busses are cleaned regularly throughout the day and drivers are wearing personal protection equipment, she said. To ensure social distancing, only essential trips are being conducted, every other row of seats has been blocked off, and ridership has been limited to 15 people on each bus. She added the busses are running at an “enhanced Sunday level.” Pierce Transit will also park a couple busses at various spots for students to park near and use the vehicles’ Wi-Fi hotspots.
Revenue will be down, Drier noted. “We have already begun reducing costs, put capital projects on hold, we’ve done furloughs, and layoffs will be coming in the near future,” she said. “We never thought we would be here in 2020 and we want to make sure we are ready to get people back to work and school.”
MultiCare’s Carlson spoke of seeing a recent decline in COVID-19-related cases in MultiCare’s hospitals and clinics, and also focused on “the profound impact this has had on health care,” including financially — visits are down to urgent care, medical facilities, emergency rooms, and surgical centers. “We have delayed over 3,000 surgeries and we’re very, very concerned people are going to lose their insurance. … We are increasingly concerned that people in our area are delaying their care to their detriment (and) will harm themselves (by delaying treatment). We are beginning to see this in our community.”
For more information on this webinar series or to listen to previous episodes, visit this website.
Thumbnail photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash