County council grapples with return to in-person meetings
Now that mask mandates for most indoor settings have been lifted, when will the Clark County council resume in-person meetings? That question turns out to be harder to answer than you might expect.
“We do not yet have a date certain, although it is likely that we’ll return first to hybrid format because of the requirement that council provide residents the opportunity to join our meetings remotely, at least for a while,” Chair Karen Bowerman wrote in a March 16 email to The Columbian.
Bowerman also said the county needed to work through some technical challenges before those hybrid meetings, meaning simultaneously in-person and virtual, could begin.
When the mask mandate was lifted on March 12, many county residents expected the council to discuss resuming in-person meetings. But that has yet to happen.
The council’s first discussions about in-person meetings occurred on Jan. 5. Then-Councilor Eileen Quiring O’Brien said she felt it was important to give the public access to in-person meetings as quickly as possible. However, a majority of the council voted to hold off on making a decision until the surge in Omicron cases had subsided.
“Based on the reports we’ve had from Public Health and continuing cases and hospitalizations, it remains prudent to stay virtual,” Councilor Temple Lentz said during a Jan. 12 council meeting.
Lentz suggested reviewing the decision on a month-by-month basis.
The council again discussed the topic at its Feb. 2 meeting. All but Quiring O’Brien agreed to give it another few weeks to see if COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates were dropping.
Had the council chosen to resume in-person meetings, public attendance would have been limited to around 30 people because of mask and social distancing requirements in place at the time.
“I think it’s too soon to be opening it up” Councilor Gary Medvigy said during the meeting.
Medvigy also noted it would be nearly impossible to enforce mask and social distancing requirements at a public meeting.
In a follow-up email to The Columbian on March 23, Bowerman said the county was still working to resolve its technical issues. She also said it was likely the council would take up the discussion at its March 30 meeting.
For an agenda or meeting links, go to https://clark.wa.gov/calendar.
— Shari Phiel