Canby Fire Chief on Coronavirus Outbreak: ‘We Know It’s Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better’

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. It’s time-tested advice, and Canby city officials have been following it in recent weeks as they prepare for what Gov. Kate Brown described this morning as “an unprecedented public health crisis,” the “rapidly evolving global pandemic” that is coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Canby Fire District Chief Jim Davis said he has been in “constant contact” with City of Canby and Canby Police officials, including Interim City Administrator Amanda Zeiber and Lt. Jorge Tro.

“We are working hand-in-hand with Clackamas County Emergency Management as well,” Chief Davis said. “We have emergency protocols in place for things like a major earthquake or other natural disaster, and we’re treating this the same way.”

Because coronavirus is known to pose a more serious threat to the aging population and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems, Chief Davis and city officials have met and reviewed established protocols with all of the local senior care and assisted living facilities, including Hope Village, Rackleff Place and Countryside Living.

Chief Davis said he and other leaders have been carefully tracking the spread of COVID-19, and have paid particular attention to where the outbreak has been the worst: Kirkland, Wash.

Although it seemed, on a particularly chaotic day, that the entire state of Oregon was canceling itself, Chief Davis said that officials are not expecting this to be a short-term event. They are in for a long haul, and looking one to two months ahead at a minimum.

“We know it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he admitted. “Right now, we’re just trying to slow things down a little bit, try not to over-tax the health care system and hopefully, allow everyone to get the medical assistance and treatment they need.”

Zeiber, the interim city administrator, said the Canby Police Department will continue taking dispatch calls for service and perform self-initiated activity. The PD is taking “proper precautions” as directed by the Clackamas County Health Department, the Oregon Health Authority and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office in respect to transport of prisoners who are believed to be ill.

“Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, we will continue to monitor this issue daily,” she said. “We will make adjustments as necessary to ensure we are taking the proper precautions for our staff and our community so we can continue to provide the best police service we can.”

The city has suspended all board and commission meetings, with the exception of city council and planning commission. The city has also canceled library programs and suspended reservations of public meeting facilities until further notice.

“We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate everyone’s patience as we wade through the mass media reports and try to find a balance between undeserved panic and ill-informed complacency,” Zeiber said.

City staff have also canceled non-essential group meetings and will use video conferencing, conference calls and other alternate means of communication to minimize gatherings or groups of people. The Canby Swim Center will remain open at this time.

Mayor Brian Hodson has also been involved in the inter-agency emergency planning and conversations with Chief Davis and others, and posted an update to his blog reassuring residents that all the appropriate steps are being taken.

“When there is challenge or when people are in need, Canby steps up,” the mayor said. “Stay vigilant; check in on your neighbors, especially those most vulnerable; and be kind to each other. Let’s step up and do what we can, when we can.”

Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall posted an update Thursday afternoon, saying the school district is following the direction of Gov. Brown in staying open at this time. (Sorry, kids.) However, non-essential school-based activities are suspended until further notice, including all assemblies and events, off-campus activities and professional development meetings.

“The safety, health, and well-being of our students and staff is our highest priority,” Superintendent Goodall said. “We will continue to work in close partnership with public health authorities to minimize both the spread of coronavirus and disruption to schools and students.”

Officials are encouraging residents to limit their possible exposure and follow a few common sense guidelines: wash your hands regularly with soap and water, avoid close contact with sick people or stay home if you are sick yourself, and avoid touching your face with your hands. In the chief’s words, just “good hygiene.”

And, obviously, stock up on all the toilet paper you possibly can, right??

“I haven’t quite figured that one out yet,” Chief said with a laugh. “I guess people are anticipating a shortage.”

See our earlier story for the new rules announced by Gov. Brown to stem the spread of coronavirus, as well as the most up-to-date information about cancellations affecting the Canby area.

Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!