County continues essential operations

A woman in her early 90s is the first person in Island County to die from coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases rose to 17, Island County Public Health reported Thursday.

The woman had underlying health issues and passed away at her home, according to county officials.

While experts continue to stress the importance of people staying home and Whidbey Island is closed down in response to the pandemic, Island County government is continuing operations, although it’s largely behind closed doors.

During a meeting Wednesday, Island County commissioners set three priorities in continuing county operations. They are to protect staff and the public, which means conducting business electronically and telephonically when possible; provide continuity of government to be a stabilizing influence to the economy; and adequately staff the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

Permits will be processed online to the extent possible. County meetings will be held through remote conferencing tools. County meeting rooms are off limits to non-county groups.

Other elected county officials have taken similar steps. The Island County Auditor’s Office and Treasurer’s Office announced this week that they are closed to the public, but residents can still reach the staff by phone or email. In addition, many self-service options are available on the county website.

Island County Superior Court judges filed an emergency order Tuesday in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, but it was replaced Thursday by an order from the state Supreme Court that took even more drastic action in restricting in-person court hearings.

Under the order, civil trials, all non-emergency civil matters, all criminal trials, out-of-custody criminal hearings and juvenile cases will be continued until April 24.

Courts must allow telephonic or video appearances for necessary criminal hearings, unless impossible, the order states.

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