PORT ANGELES — Work on the Field Arts & Events Hall, which ground to a halt just 30 minutes before Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19-related deadline, is ready to start up again as soon as his ban on non-essential construction is lifted, a project organizer said Tuesday.
Inslee strongly hinted at a press conference Monday and on CNN Sunday that he intends to extend the two-week “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” edict.
But that hasn’t quelled the optimism of Brooke Taylor, president of the Waterfront Center board, even though 25 cases of the virus had been reported in Clallam and Jefferson counties as of Tuesday.
Taylor was upbeat Monday despite Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry Unthank’s prediction last week that the highly contagious respiratory virus will make its dire presence known on the North Olympic Peninsula for another two to three weeks.
“We’re rarin’ to go,” Taylor said Tuesday.
Minneapolis, Minn.-based contractor M.A. Mortenson Company finished pouring the foundation of the performance hall project March 25 with a half-hour to spare under the 48 hours of leeway Inslee gave March 23 for nonessential construction before those projects had to shut down.
Exemptions include projects that “further a public purpose related to a public entity or governmental function or facility, including but not limited to publicly financed low-income housing,” according to Inslee’s recent order.
The 18 inches of 550 yards of concrete was being applied when Inslee issued his order, which left the theater’s eastern wall looming but unfinished at the downtown site at Oak Street and Front Street.
“It is certainly disappointing when you go full-bore on a construction project that is so exciting to the city, then to have construction stop for even a day or two,” Taylor said.
“The other side of it is, we feel like we are well-positioned to move ahead and get the project right back on schedule.
“We can position ourselves to open up the construction site the minute it’s possible.”
As of Monday, 379 Clallam County residents had been tested, with 337 negative, 34 pending and eight positive results, including the first community transmission of the virus that has infected a man in his 50s.
The most at-risk population for severe illness is older than 60, male and obese, health officials say.
No new cases were reported by Undersheriff Ron Cameron at Tuesday’s regular COVID-19 briefing.
“These are pretty good numbers,” Cameron said.
Case No. 17 in Jefferson
In Jefferson County, a 17th case was reported Tuesday among 514 patients tested.
Of those, 434 have come back negative, 63 are pending, with nine of those exposed in the county and eight presumed to be exposed out of county.
Nine in Jefferson County are ages 20-49, and eight 60-79.
In Clallam County, those infected live in different areas of the county, according to the county Health and Human Services department.
Community transmission “is what we’ve been expecting all along,” Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Tuesday.
“We’ve had people with multiple potential exposures.
“The cases were are seeing now, for the most part, occurred before the stringent stay-at-home, social-distancing measures,” Locke said, referring to the 6-foot physical distancing from others recommended while in public to prevent the spread of the virus, commonly via droplets from coughing or sneezing.
Locke said there are “extraordinary delays” in getting test results for one of four labs that counties are using in Seattle, some as long as 13 or 14 days, by which time some people already have recovered.
Locke said that, to speed up the process, test kit couriers from Clallam and Jefferson counties meet at Fat Smitty’s at the U.S. Highway 101 turnoff to Port Townsend early in the morning, and a courier takes the swab specimens from both counties to a Seattle lab before testing starts.
While stay-at-home measures appear to be working, “it’s not the time to relax our guard” in preventing the spread of COVID-19, Locke said.
Measures include physical distancing and staying home if a person has any hint of being sick, he said.
“We need to redouble our efforts, because the risk is going up of community exposure,” Locke said.
Inslee’s stay-at-home measures include a requirement that government public meetings be held online.
The city Department of Community and Economic Development will decide April 21 if Bellvue developer Eric Dupar’s conditional use permit application is complete for his Anian Shores development downtown, then will decide if a hearing will be held online, Community Development Manager Emma Bolin said Tuesday.
According to a permit application, Dupar’s Anian Shores’ would be a six-story downtown condominium-retail complex that would exceed the city building height limit at 222 W. Front St. just east of the Waterfront Center site.
Anian Shores would be 69 feet above grade, according to the application. The height limit is 45 feet.
Lee Plaza on West First Street, about four blocks east of the site, is four stories, the same height as the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s hotel being built 1½ blocks west of Dupar’s project on West Front Street.
Bolin said the city will issue a recommendation on Dupar’s permit application for the hearing examiner’s consideration.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is preparing the site, which includes conducting an environmental cleanup, for a $25 million hotel.
A bulldozer was working at the site Tuesday.
Bolin referred questions about the status of the project to tribal officials.
Robert Utz, the project manager, said in a text message Tuesday afternoon that, as of Tuesday, he was temporarily laid off.
Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles was not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].