Black Ball sailings stay closed

No new COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula

PORT ANGELES — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the United States and Canada will keep their borders closed to nonessential travel for another 30 days, although that will not affect sailings of the M/V Coho, which Black Ball Ferries previously shut down through the end of May.

Black Ball Ferries made the decision last week to cancel all sailings until May 31. The last time the M/V Coho sailed was March 29.

Trudeau’s announcement Saturday extends the closure until May 18, but he said it will likely go longer than that.

“The agreement is the same terms,” Trudeau said. “It’s just extended for another 30 days. It will ensure we continue to get essential goods and services back and forth across the border.”

Ryan Malane, Black Ball Ferry vice president of marketing and sales, said the decision to keep the border closed another 30 days “doesn’t affect us in a material way.

“We had already anticipated no sailings in May.”

Malane said Black Ball knew Canada and the U.S. would re-evaluate the border closure by today.

“We were anticipating this,” he said. “This isn’t a surprise.”

Malane said he’s aware how much the COVID-19 closures are hurting Black Ball but business in Port Angeles. May is a big month for the company with two holiday weekends — Canada’s Victoria Day on May 18 and Memorial Day in the U.S. on May 25.

“It’s a big loss for us,” Malane said. “It’s a big loss for the entire community. A lot of businesses rely on Black Ball.”

Malane said the company hasn’t had any discussions yet on extending its sailing closures past May 31. But he is aware of the possibility that the border may remain closed past May.

“Canada is taking a very long view on reopening,” Malane said.

The U.S. and Canada agreed last month to limit border crossings to essential travel amid the pandemic, but that agreement was due to expire today. Nearly 200,000 people cross the border daily during normal times.

Canada has more than 31,884 confirmed cases, including more than 1,308 deaths. The United States has more than 760,000 confirmed cases and more than 40,000 deaths.

No new cases

No new cases were reported in Jefferson or Clallam counties this weekend.

Jefferson County Public Health Officer Tom Locke said this was the second quiet weekend in a row. Jefferson sits at 28 cases total and Clallam 14 total.

“I’m not sure this will be the model through the future,” Locke said.

Locke will give a weekly COVID-19 briefing to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners today at 9:45 a.m. Data from a statewide health officers’ conference call from Saturday will be discussed.

The data shows cases appear to be plateauing in Washington, Locke said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, will brief the public at 10 a.m. today.

Both briefings can be viewed online. Jefferson County’s will be at www.tinyurl.com/JeffCoCOVID and Clallam County’s is at www.tinyurl.com/ClallamCoCOVID.

If Gov. Jay Inslee loosens the restrictions on business openings on May 5 — he is not expected to completely lift them — then Locke said Jefferson County needs to prepared to respond quickly to a possible increase in cases. That means more testing capacity and quicker results, he said.

Locke added that labs in Seattle have “ramped up their capacity,” and Jefferson is getting test results much faster than five to 14 days, when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Locke called the strategy “testing, tracing and containment.”

“This is a very precarious time,” he said. “We can’t go back to business as usual too quickly, or we’ll end up worse than where we were two weeks ago because we’ll be starting at a much higher point.”

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