OLYMPIA - Late on Saturday, April 18, the Employment Security Department updated their unemployment system to enable several provisions of the federal CARES act: expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits to those previously ineligible such as independent contractors, self-employed workers, and those with fewer than 680 hours; increasing weekly unemployment benefits by $600; and extending benefits by 13 weeks.
Since the launch of those updates, almost $900M has been sent to Washingtonians, bringing the total paid out since the crisis began to nearly $1.4B.
Governor Jay Inslee, in consultation with the state's construction industry, announced a plan last Friday that allows current construction projects to be completed.
"I thank all those involved in the construction workgroup in helping us get to this decision in a responsible way that supports workers, businesses, and communities in a way that protects the health of all of their families and ours," Inslee said. "Our strategy is working and we need to keep with it. We would much rather protect people from sickness and death now, so that we don't have to go through this crisis all over again later."
Last week two cats in New York tested positive for COVID-19. This is the first time a pet tested positive for coronavirus.
The tests were administered by a private veterinary laboratory. The tests used for cats are different from the tests used for humans. Currently pet coronavirus tests are only available for government agencies and academic institutions to assist in research of COVID-19.
The cats live in different parts of New York state. "The two cats that tested positive in NY had 'mild upper respiratory symptoms' this means sneezing, runny nose," said Veterinarian Gina Lewis from Vetters Animal Hospital. "General practitioners are not allowed to order tests. All testing must be approved and conducted through the state veterinarian's office at this time.
As of this day, Friday, April 24, Lewis County had 29 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus. The first confirmed case in Washington was on January 21. This was three months ago.
At the same time, there are thousands of local businesses that are either closed, conducting restricted business or are out of business in this county.
In my restricted travels about our county, I see solid social distancing practices and many face masks. I see stations in the businesses that have alcohol and towels for hands and shopping carts and whatever. Good practices being adhered to. I see people wearing gloves and taking them off before they get back into their cars. I see 6-foot demarcations taped off on the store floors in front of the checkout counters. I see plastic cough guards have been installed between cashiers and their customers.
ToledoTel is recognized as a leader in high-speed internet and is dedicated to serving not only our local area but also anywhere we are able in Lewis County. Today, ToledoTel activated two free WiFi hotspots in Winlock.
They activated City Hall and the other at the Winlock Senior Center. You may be able to pick up the signal where you live or you may need to drive to the location of the hotspot. Van Cleve Ford in Morton will be ready this week. At Morton, students need to access the WiFi across the street at the old grocery store as Van Cleve has limited parking.
One topic that prompted a lot of conversation and concern at the Emergency Operations Center meetings last week was the possibility of reopening Pacific County.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife asked the opinion of the Mayors and Commissioners in attendance their thoughts on reopening public lands. WDFW needed to get a local feel on this subject. Many elected officials expressed their concerns.
Notification of the 4th positive case of COVID-19 in Pacific County was sent out Tuesday evening on April 21. The individual is isolated in a medical facility and close contacts of the individual are currently being contacted by public health nurses with instructions to quarantine per Department of Health guidelines. If the case investigation reveals exposure(s) to the general public, that information will be made public.
During two addresses to the state on April 21 and 22, Governor Jay Inslee spoke about the plans that are being developed for reopening Washington. His overarching goals include restarting the local economy and protecting Washingtonians' health.
"One month ago with our state facing stark projections of an unmitigated public health and economic disaster, with the support of the legislature, my office took decisive action to save our friends and our families from that fate," said Inslee.
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