WENATCHEE — The state resources provided Tuesday are a much-appreciated assistance for the Chelan-Douglas Health District, Health Officer Malcolm Butler said.
The state Department of Health setup an incident command team in Chelan and Douglas counties, according to a news conference with Governor Jay Inslee and Butler. The Washington National Guard also was deployed to help conduct testing in North Central Washington.
The help is appreciated as no one at the Chelan-Douglas Health District has incident command training, Butler said. Also, the staff at the health district has been working full throttle since the pandemic started in March. Normally, incident command teams would work 14 days on and then 14 days off, he said.
“But nobody (at the health district) has ever run a pandemic,” Butler said, “They’re like licensing swimming and septic tanks, right?”
So for the time being, the state will manage some of the response to the pandemic, particularly the contact tracing, he said. Health district staff will then be able to go back to what they normally do for a while and receive a bit of a break.
Also, while health districts in other counties received CARE Act funding to mitigate the cost of dealing with the pandemic, the Chelan-Douglas Health District received none, Butler said.
The counties are providing some of their own CARE Act funding, Douglas County Commissioner Dan Sutton said. Sutton is also the chair of the Chelan-Douglas Board of Health.
Butler isn’t sure entirely why that was the case, he said. But it may have to do with the fact that the funding was for health departments under individual counties and the Chelan-Douglas Health District is a two-county district.
“The health district has not been able to do its own testing,” Butler said. “In most counties the health district has been doing a lot of testing.”
Also part of the state’s efforts on Tuesday, the Department of Health is partially funding the salary of Dr. Peter Houck, of Cashmere, he said. Houck has a background as a pandemic specialist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will provide consulting service to the health department, Butler said.
“So having someone like Dr. Houck who actually has done that in this career, he can come and teach us,” Butler said. “And he could help coordinate where we should do testing.”