PORT TOWNSEND — Restaurants and bars across the state have been ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee to only serve to-go orders and not allow dine-in service in an effort to curtail the spread of the new coronavirus.
Many businesses around downtown Port Townsend on Monday had signs in their windows, indicating they will only accept to-go orders.
Others have closed or plan to limit their hours of operation.
There remained three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County, although none are believed to have occurred through community transmission, said Dr. Tom Locke, the county’s health officer.
As of Monday, there had been 133 people tested for the virus, Locke said. Of those, 72 were negative and 58 tests were still pending.
There were no confirmed cases of Clallam County residents with the respiratory illness as of Monday.
Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry Unthank said 79 tests had been conducted, yielding 17 negative results with 62 tests pending.
Two Clallam County residents had contact with COVID-19-positive King County residents over the weekend, she said.
Contact-tracing protocols are being conducted with those people, she said.
In Port Townsend, businesses were attempting to adapt following Inslee’s executive order.
Kris Nelson, owner of several bars and restaurants in Port Townsend, said the decision wasn’t a total shock.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” she said. “We were already working on some to-go [orders], knowing that it was a possibility. So when we heard last night, it was a very long night coming up with clever solutions and making calls, rearranging schedules.
“Most of us thought that to-go [orders] was going to be next Wednesday. You know, launching with the reduction in people going out, not instead of right now.”
Nelson owns four businesses in Port Townsend: Sirens Pub, Old Whiskey Mill, Alchemy Bistro and Wine Bar, and the In-Between.
Nelson chose to close the In-Between as it is more of a cocktail bar, and there isn’t anything on its menu that can be offered as a to-go item, she said.
Her other three restaurants will have their full menus open for to-go orders in addition to some specials, she said.
Sirens Pub, Alchemy and Whiskey Mill will have regular menus available for curbside pickup from noon to 8 p.m. with an option for people to buy a bottle of wine or beer or have a growler filled.
The restaurants will also have windows for delivery from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m., and it will have St. Patrick’s Day specials today at Sirens and the Whiskey Mill, Nelson said.
Orders will not be accepted between 4 and 5 p.m. at Alchemy, she said.
Part of the delivery will include cocktails made at home, Nelson added.
“Since we have a catering license, you call up to order a couple of cocktails and dinner, and we will bring you your dinner, shake up your cocktails right there at your house, and leave you drinking your cocktail and enjoying your food and move on to our next location,” Nelson said.
The Port Townsend Main Street Program is working with downtown businesses to find resources and strategies to stay operational, Executive Director Mari Mullen said.
“We are encouraging businesses to have an updated website with the capability to sell gift certificates on their websites, and linking their websites to their social media so they can keep the conversation going with their customers and the public,” Mullen said.
“We want to help our local businesses find the resources they need get through this unprecedented and challenging time,” she said. “Business owners are concerned about how to stay financially viable. It is hitting across all the categories — business is down at hotels, restaurants/bars, entertainment and retail. It is all connected.”
Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) announced the closure of its office locations to the public and is encouraging customers to call at 360-385-2571 (Port Townsend), 360-52-726 (Port Angeles) and 360-374-6193 (Forks), or email [email protected] to receive services, said Cherish Cronmiller, executive director.
OlyCAP also closed the Brinnon, Quilcene and Tri-Area community centers, but it will keep the food banks operational, Cronmiller said. It will pre-box items for people to take home verses having them shop around, Cronmiller said.
The Board of Jefferson County Commissioners declared a state of emergency Monday in response to COVID-19 and directed the county’s Department of Emergency Management to implement a comprehensive emergency management plan as necessary to “preserve public health, protect life and provide relief to the impacted community,” the declaration said.
The Jefferson Community Foundation, along with United Good Neighbors and the Housing Solutions Network, has opened the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.
The campaign will support nonprofit organizations and government agencies are helping to meet basic community needs, facing increased demand for services or dealing with their own organization’s hardship, said Tina Flores-McCleese, chair of the Port Townsend Wearable Art Show.
Locke and Willie Bence, the Jefferson County emergency management director, briefed the county commissioners Monday on how the county has been managing the pandemic.
Locke said preventative will lower the peak number of cases and allow for the healthcare system to not be overloaded.
He added it’s not slowing enough yet, in part due to testing delays and a lack of personal protective equipment for medical personnel, which has led to the need for the additional closures.
By slowing the contamination of the virus, the length of time the community will take to recover will grow, Locke said, pointing to previous data that showed COVID-19 cases were peaking after about six weeks.
With social distancing measures taken, the peak could be extended by three or four weeks but may have fewer cases, he said.
“We are where King County was four to six weeks ago,” Locke said. “The better job we do, the longer the duration extends.”
COVID-19 patients who have recovered have been immune to the virus afterward, although it is unknown for how long, Locke said.
“This is not a time for people to panic,” he said.
Bence said the Emergency Operations Center has been activated and is working under incident command. The team is working to develop a response for sheltering the transient population and is planning to work with Neighborhood Preparedness groups for at-risk and quarantined community members.
Jefferson Healthcare has been screening respiratory illness patients separately from the others in a dedicated COVID-19/Repiratory Illness Evaluation Station, and it will be expanding to have drive-thru testing today, said Amy Yaley, Jefferson Healthcare communications director.
All testing is by appointment only. People who believe they need to be tested must call the COVID-19/Respiratory Illness Nurse Consult Line at 360-344-3094 and be evaluated to see if they need to be tested.
The calls are returned between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. seven days a week. People who are experiencing mild respiratory and cold symptoms are discouraged from seeking care at the hospital’s emergency department without consulting with the nurse line, Yaley said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].
Jefferson County reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.