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Meetings in Port Angeles to be hybrid

Peninsula Daily News - 11/4/2022

PORT ANGELESPort Angeles will return its city council meetings and other city meetings to a hybrid format beginning Nov. 15.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to move from a virtual-only to a hybrid model. In-person attendance at the council meetings in chambers at city hall, 321 E. Fifth St., have no restrictions on the number of people or other requirements, although public health officials have recommended that people wear masks.

If members of the public or council members are unable to appear in person, they will be able to attend the meetings virtually.

"I would like to see us go back to in-person as soon as possible," said Deputy Mayor Brendan Meyer.

"We have always technically had hybrid meetings. I remember going to city council meetings before I was elected and when a council member couldn't be there in person, they were able to phone in.

"If anything, our hybrid style has been able to really develop," he added.

Council member LaTrisha Suggs expressed concern about getting back together in person with winter coming up, but said, "I do like the idea of maintaining the hybrid approach. Many of us work full time, many of us travel, and instead of a phone call, we are able to join in this manner."

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said it was the wrong time to bring a lot of people together in a room "because all the predictions are we're going to see not just an increase in COVID-19 transmission, but flu and RSV, which mainly affects kids."

Other council members pointed out that the majority of the population of the county is vaccinated.

"We as a society have prioritized vaccination, which is a safe and effective measure to protect our communities," said council member Mike French.

"Seventy-one percent of Clallam County has chosen to become fully vaccinated. That is a good thing and a social response to protect our community from a deadly disease."

Gov. Jay Inslee's state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic ended on Monday. While that opened up in-person meetings on the state level, it is up to the individual city, county and other local government boards to determine how they will meet going forward.

The city council for Port Angeles has been meeting virtually since May due to high COVID-19 transmission in Clallam County per the COVID-19 dashboard on the Clallam County website.

"Inslee's proclamation did not undo what the city has done in response to COVID-19," said Bill Bloor, city attorney.

"The city adopted its own emergency declaration. In that declaration, it adopted a protocol for hybrid and virtual meetings. Hybrid when COVID cases were low and virtual when cases are high," Bloor said.

The city was to determine how it would hold public meetings based on the Clallam County COVID-19 dashboard data. As of Tuesday, that dashboard no longer exists.

Bloor said that, according to Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, because of at-home tests and other factors, the dashboard had been under-reporting cases in both counties and that going forward the Department of Health will be using other methods to report COVID-19 case rates.