July 29, 2020 — The COVID pandemic has clearly arrived in Florence. Multiple businesses have closed in the past week as a result of COVID-19 exposure concerns and to test employees for the virus, including Dutch Bros., Hukilau, Lovejoy’s, Nosh and 1285 Restobar. As of today, all have reopened.
The rolling effect of COVID-19 through the local food service industry in particular has prompted restaurant owners to respond out of concern for both the public and employees — and avoid the need for a longer shutdown as Florence cycles through the summer tourist season and Phase Two of the state’s re-opening.
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 and testing of individuals exhibiting symptoms is the only way to determine who has been infected. The need to identify, test and — if a positive test is confirmed — isolate infected individuals remains the best mitigation protocol health experts have been able to offer the public at this point in the pandemic.
As of press time on July 28, the latest data posted by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 17,088 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with statewide deaths at totaling 289.
The OHA also reported that “at least 381,718 tests have been performed.”
Lane County Public Health authorities have confirmed a total of 458 COVID cases in the county as of noon on July 28, resulting in 3 deaths due to the virus.
The number of confirmed cases in the 97439 zip code rose from 12 on Friday to 15 on Monday, then 18 as of yesterday, with more test results being added daily to the county’s collected data totals. People can visit lanecounty.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=3585881&pageId=16503774 for a map of current virus counts by zip code.
Lane County Health & Human Services Public Information Officer Jason Davis said he is not surprised that Florence has experienced an uptick in COVID-related closings.
“Absolutely, we at Lane County Health feel and understand that Florence has unique challenges as people go to the coast after being stuck at home for so long,” Davis said. “The coast is more and more of an option for people looking to get away for a few days. We have discussed in our meetings the number of cases being tracked by zip code — and we are well aware of what’s going on out there.”
According to Davis, Lane County is “between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to modifying COVID protocols, as officials are striving to attain a balance between maintaining the health of the public and allowing for the reopening of businesses closed due to the pandemic.
One of the local organizations that has been proactive in addressing the new requirements is the Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County.
“Last Wednesday morning (July 22), I got a call that one of our Teen Center employees had been exposed to someone with COVID,” said Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Chuck Trent. “Out of an abundance of caution, we closed the Teen Center and sent the employee home for 14 days of self-quarantine. We had Cintas Corporation come in and disinfect both buildings top to bottom and all surfaces with medical grade disinfectant.”
Trent said the Boys and Girls Club also contacted Lane County Public Health to inform them of the situation and explain what the club was doing.
“Everything they told us we should do had already been done,” Trent said. “We also contacted the Office of Child Care to let them know what happened and what we were doing. We got the approval from both agencies to reopen the Teen Center last Thursday, based on the actions we took as soon as we got the call.
“Everything worked exactly the way it should work, which is why we were able to reopen.”
According to Davis, other businesses, like Dutch Bros., have instituted a more robust cleaning and disinfectant regimen than required in order to maintain the highest levels of safety.
Davis added that the changing nature of COVID-related spread in coastal communities like Florence makes it difficult to combat, with vectors now including potential transmission from out-of-area contact in addition to residents who become infected after leaving the area and returning.
For the latest updates, visit lanecounty.org and oregon.gov. Both sites have COVID-19 pages with the most current official data, reports and recommendations from state and county health officials.
Testing for COVID-19 is available in the Siuslaw region at PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center. For more information, visit www.peacehealth.org/coronavirus/Florence#testing or call 541-997-8412.