Clark County canceled its annual State of the County address on Wednesday, six hours before it was scheduled to begin, citing the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
The 2020 State of the County event, which would have been delivered by Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring, was supposed to be held at 6 p.m. Around noon, leaders announced through a press release that the gathering would be canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Public Health is not currently recommending restrictions on public events or gatherings. However, given that some people may be concerned about attending public events at this time, we are canceling (Wednesday night’s) State of the County,” Quiring said in the press release.
Last year’s address drew a sizable crowd, packing the sixth-floor hearing room in the Public Service Center in Vancouver.
The county council’s March 24 hearing will continue as previously scheduled..
Vancouver address moved online
Shortly after the county’s announcement, the city of Vancouver issued its own press release announcing that its 2020 State of the City address would be delivered to a near-empty room.
Instead of delivering the speech to a crowd in the City Hall atrium, as in previous years, the address from Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle will be broadcast on Clark/Vancouver Television (CVTV) and online, and on the city’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Despite the change in format, it will go on as previously scheduled at 5 p.m. March 26.
“While there are no known cases of coronavirus at this time associated with any of the city’s buildings, the decision to change this year’s State of the City Address was made to help keep our community safe,” McEnerny-Ogle said in the press release.
“I’m looking forward to giving this year’s address, where I will reflect back on the city’s major accomplishments from 2019 and highlight future plans and initiatives,” she added.
The video version of the address will include an American Sign Language interpreter and closed-captioning.
The two annual addresses are the latest large gatherings to become casualties of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, a novel infectious disease that’s part of the coronavirus family.
Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries announced Tuesday that it would be canceling events across its 12 campuses through March 27, halting an estimated 300 public gatherings. Camas Public Library also canceled all of its events through March 31. The AARP Foundation suspended its tax assistance clinics, and the Port of Vancouver postponed a lecture and tour.
A single case of the coronavirus has been diagnosed in Clark County. Test results from an additional 17 results are pending as of Wednesday afternoon. Six tests have returned negative.
Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick told The Columbian that the county is currently in a “containment phase,” focused on testing, selective quarantining and active monitoring for virus symptoms.
If cases increase, the response effort will escalate to mitigation to slow the spread of the virus, Melnick said. That could involve more cancellations of big group settings — schools, movie theaters and gatherings that involve adults older than 60.