Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, March 17 @ 5:17 p.m.

Harbor Commissioners Discuss COVID-19, Social Distancing, Meeting By Teleconference

Coronavirus. Graphic: Scientific Animations. Creative Commons license

Harbor district officials have tweaked their office hours, are urging patrons to do business online or via phone and are taking steps to hold commission meetings remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But time on the clock won’t change for the port’s hourly employees, RV park managers, maintenance and security, Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms told commissioners Tuesday.

Maintenance staff, especially, are critical, however they’ll abide by the social distancing guidelines of six-feet, Helms said.

“They pull gear off boats, they need to be going full bore,” he said, of the maintenance staff. “We’ll count on (staff) being able to resolve issues and pay bills like normal.”

One employee, who is over 65 years old and is part of the population at high risk of getting sick, will stay home to ensure that he stays healthy, Facilities Manager Mike Baker told commissioners.

To give Helms additional time to ensure harbor district meetings can be held remotely, commissioners voted 4-0-1 in favor of skipping its next meeting, typically scheduled for the first Tuesday of the month. The next Harbor District meeting will be held April 21.

Commissioner Carol White was absent.

As California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health issues stricter guidelines for social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Helms said he is going to contract with Slack, Zoom, Go-to Meeting to enable commissioners to continue to do business.

To make this easier on local agencies, Newsom suspended portions of the Brown Act, California’s open meetings law, Helms said. If a commissioner participated in the meeting remotely, their location had to be listed on the agenda, he said.

“We are going to have a physical meeting spot here where a member of the public could come in,” he said. “We’ll try and follow the directives as much as possible. We don’t want to contribute to the spread of the disease.”

The harbormaster said he also received an update on how the port should monitor vessel traffic coming into and out of the harbor for the virus. According to him, people on board a vessel are required to self report where they’re coming from, if they or anyone on board has had contact with someone who may have been carrying COVID-19 or if they have been quarantined.

If any of that applies, Helms said the Crescent City Harbor would call the captain of port in McKinleyville and they would send someone to Crescent City to determine if the boat needs to be quarantined.

“We have the Coast Guard cutter Dorado, but they’re not equipped to do this,” he said. “We would not be responsible for having a vessel that self reports they’re affected by the coronavirus.”

Crescent City is not an official port of entry, Helms noted. Harbor staff redirect vessels coming from overseas to Humboldt Bay where they are signed in by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, he said.

Though Helms said he didn’t anticipate a reduction in revenue to the harbor due to the COVID-19 response — the port will still receive income through its leases and marine tenants — restaurants like the Chartroom, Fisherman’s and Crescent Sea Food may struggle. Helms noted that the Chartroom and Crescent Seafood are only offering carryout.

The Chartroom is the port’s No. 1 source of revenue, Helms said.

“It crushes me because I had a restaurant,” he said. “I know what you need and to see how businesses are being hurt… If you’re Taco Bell or McDonalds that has a drive-through you’re going to get hurt, but not like our folks here. Fisherman’s or Good Harvest (Cafe), none of them are set up for that.”

Del Norte County currently has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, though one person is under investigation and test results for three specimens are pending, according to the county Public Health Branch. Fourteen tests have come back negative as of 3:49 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Public Health Branch.

The Harbor District’s discussion comes the day after the Crescent City Council declared a local emergency and closed Fred Endert Municipal Pool and suspended events requiring city approval through April 6. The city also suspended its water shutoff policy for customers who haven’t paid their bill for the duration of the emergency, which will be reviewed in 60 days.

Del Norte Unified School District, Uncharted Shores Academy, Little School of the Redwoods and tribal head start facilities are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Del Norte Child Care Council's facilities at Mary Peacock Elementary School and Redwood School are also closed.

DNUSD is still offering breakfast and lunches to its students, with bus drivers and nutrition service staff making several stops throughout the county.

According to the California Department of Public Health, there are 472 positive cases in the state and 11 deaths, including one non-California resident.


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