Community FAQs

​Business Expansion into the Sidewalk and Street

The City has an established permit process for use of the sidewalk and right-of-way for commercial purposes. Businesses who need additional space to accommodate reopening under COVID protocols are encouraged to use this tool to expand into the sidewalk and street, provided safety and passage for pedestrians can be maintained/enhanced. For more information, contact pwpermits@cob.org.​

Parks and Recreation 

Please help us keep our parks and trails open by following Whatcom County Health Department guidelines, practicing safe social distancing and not gathering!  Below are answers to our frequently asked questions.

Q:  Are City Parks and Recreation facilities open?

Parks and park restrooms are open, but there are restrictions in place. Parking at community parks has been limited. Playgrounds, sports courts, fenced dog off leash areas, and ball fields are closed. Open spaces and trails remain open. Indoor facilities, the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center and stadiums are closed. For a complete list please go to our website: www.cob.org/parks

Q:  What can I do or not do at a park during this time?

Under Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order​, exercise is allowed.  What you should NOT be doing is picnicking, sunbathing, hammocking, playing games or hanging out.  Come to the park, get some fresh air, exercise and return home. Parks Ambassadors and staff are in the parks reminding visitors of the guidelines.

Q:  Why are park restrooms open?

The City is dedicated to keeping parks and trails open throughout all operational periods of the Covid-19 crisis, which includes park restrooms. Restroom availability is imperative to public health, especially while non-essential businesses remain closed to the public. People using parks need a place to wash their hands. If we close all public restrooms, unsheltered people and others who use and depend on park restrooms would be left optionless, which creates additional environmental and health hazards to the public and staff.  For a list of restrooms open during the COVID-19 crisis, visit our webpage.

Q:  Why did you limit parking at some parks?

Sunny days, warm temperatures and different work schedules make our beautiful parks hard to resist. Reducing parking helps keep people closer to home and encourages more effective social distancing by limiting how many people are driving to parks and parking in community lots. It has proven to be effective so far.

Q:  Why are sports courts closed?

Sports courts (basketball, tennis, pickleball etc.) are closed because there are many touch points on the court elements that could contribute to the spread of Covid-19. Additionally, it is very difficult to maintain or enforce social distancing guidelines of staying six feet apart during more active/aggressive sport play. 

Q:  Where can I bring my dog?

The fenced off leash areas at Padden and Squalicum Creek parks are closed. Please do not bring your dog onto ballfields – this is always prohibited. Leashed dogs are allowed in all parks and trails.  Unfenced off-leash areas are open, but please keep your dog under control to avoid conflict or unnecessary contact with others.

Q:  When will Park facilities be open again?

We will open these facilities when the Governor and state and local authorities determine it is safe. We anticipate that there will be additional guidelines to work with once we do open again.      

Q:  I was on a trail and someone came too close to me. How are you enforcing social distancing guidelines?

Social distancing is an individual and community effort. We have posted 75 signs on our public trails reminding people to maintain appropriate distancing on trails. If you choose to use a public trail, go during times that are less busy, and try less “popular” routes. Please use our park and trail guides or park-finder app to find trails close to your home. If you are not comfortable on public trails, staying in your own neighborhood using sidewalks and bike lanes is another great way to get exercise.

Q:  Will Cordata Park open this year? What about swim docks at Bloedel-Donovan?

We are optimistic that Cordata Park will open later this Summer.  We are still working on permitting and other planning for the docks and lifeguard program at Bloedel-Donovan, but the docks and guards will not be in place until 2021.

Q:  What about summer events and programs?

All programs and events at City facilities have been cancelled through August 30, 2020. This includes volunteer work parties. Parks and Recreation staff are working hard to find innovative ways to provide educational and recreational opportunities a bit differently this summer.  Please help us understand what types of programs and activities you would like to see by filling out this short survey​.​

Q:  What other agency parks and public spaces are open?

See agency websites for details on closures:

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center

​On Monday March 23, PeaceHealth (PH) provided the following written responses​ to Bellingham City Council questions. To view the presentation, click here: ​Bellingham City Council meeting, Monday March 23 (includes video).  To read the full letter, click here: Letter to the community from Charles Prosper, Chief Executive, Northwest network, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center.

Q:  What is the capacity at St. Joes – what % of capacity are we running at currently?
PeaceHealth St. Joes is licensed for 253 beds; we’ve been operating the last week or so at between 170-180 patients or at about 70-75% capacity.  Equally important is the capacity for our Emergency Department (ED).  ED census has been between 25-50% lower than normal. That’s good news as we anticipate the need/volume to increase. 

Q:  Has PH indentified locations to accommodate overflow?  Do you have contingency plans in place expand capacity?
We have prepped one overflow area in the hospital and have a conversion plan in place for three additional units that can easily be modified to treat people with the appropriate infrastructure such as ventilators and physiologic monitoring.  We have the ability to coordinate with Whatcom County Unified Command should we need to provide care beyond the main hospital.  Locations close to the main hospital are ideal as overflow, allowing easier access to higher level of services should a patient require.

Q:  Does the hospital have enough test kits available? Are efforts being made for faster service?  
Our community currently does not have adequate testing kits consistent with the state and nation. This week, we have several test avenues which should speed up turnaround times.

Q:  Does the hospital have availability of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers?
We currently have an adequate supply, and in anticipation of a surge of patients, we have done several things:

  1. Formed a coalition of health care providers of all stripes who use masks, gowns and gloves in their practices and asked them to inventory what they have on hand, order more through their suppliers as they are able, and hold them for use in the hospital should the need arise.  This coalition includes traditional healthcare providers as well as alternative care providers, dentists, and veternarians.
  2. We’ve reached out to industry partners who may have supplies that can be used in a healthcare setting,
  3. We are working with manufacturers and university engineers to help us manufacture components of some supplies, and,
  4. Created an opportunity for people to donate supplies that they may have in their own homes, to sew masks that act as a secondary protective cover over surgical masks, and to volunteer in any number of ways.  Beginning March 24, between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., people can drop of any supplies they may have such as gloves, gowns, etc., to the Grabow Therapy and Wellness Center located on the hospital campus at 3217 Squalicum Parkway, Bellingham, WA 98225. 

Please note that we are coordinating closely with Whatcom County Unified Command on supply issues.

Q:  Has there been implementation of pre-screening / precautionary measures to protect healthcare workers at PH facilities?
Yes, temperature checks of all visitors and caregivers was implemented on Friday.  Anyone entering with a temperature of 100.4 or above will not be allowed to enter.

Q:  Does PH have the ability to segregate infected patients? 
We are currently cohorting our COVID-19 patients in one nursing unit in the hospital and will continue to do so, expanding cohorting capacity as needed.  We also segregate patients in the ED, placing patients suspected of COVID-19 in a separate area.

Q:  Can you reopen South Campus for use in this crisis?
There have been many questions about the use of the old St. Luke’s Hospital on South Campus. The facility was decommissioned over five years and is not suitable for healthcare use at this time. It does not have medical gasses, heating and air conditioning nor the clinical equipment to care for patients. PeaceHealth St. Joseph has already identified existing clinical care areas which can be quickly converted to support additional inpatients, including those requiring ventilators and physiologic monitoring.

Drop-In Center M​​ove

In response to COVID-19 and related state proclamations, as well as to address the needs of a vulnerable population, the Lighthouse Mission Ministries (LMM) will relocate its Drop-In Center (DIC) on Friday, March 20.  In partnership with the Bellingham School District and Whatcom Unified Command, the DIC will be temporarily housed on the Bellingham High School Campus.​
The move is consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and state and local Health Department guidelines for social (physical) distancing.

Q:  Why hasn’t the Drop-In Center (DIC) been closed following the Governor’s directive, since it serves more than 50 people? 

The DIC provides an essential service of sheltering 160 people per night. There are no other walk-in 24-hour emergency shelter options in Whatcom, Skagit, Island or San Juan counties. Without the DIC, more than 100 people experiencing homelessness could be endangered, with potential loss of life, if displaced from essential shelter and food services.

Q:  How will you be able to maintain the required social distancing in this new location?
Bellingham High School offers significantly more square footage than the DIC, where mats can be placed six feet apart and daytime socializing can be six feet apart.

Q:  Are you shutting down the current DIC? If so, why? Couldn’t it be used also?
Yes, the current facility at 1013 W. Holly will be temporarily closed. DIC staff would be spread too thin to safely manage two facilities operating 24/7.

Q:  Why would you move the DIC to a school? 
The closure of all public schools makes those public assets available to share in the event of an emergency, such as the one we currently face. This site was selected due to its layout, amenities and central location. Whatcom Unified Command has worked in close partnership with the Bellingham School District, the Whatcom County Health Department, local law enforcement, and partner agencies; all agree that this is an appropriate location to respond to this urgent public health need.

Q:  How will this move slow the rate at which this virus spreads within our community?
Our focus is to minimize community spread by relocating guests to Bellingham High School where there is space for appropriate social distancing.

Q:  Beyond the concern of COVID spreading through the DIC in its new location, what about other impacts in the neighborhood?
We do not anticipate there will be any significant impacts to the surrounding neighborhood. The number of staff and volunteers on duty will be increased while at this temporary location. By providing food, shelter, hygiene, medical, and other social support services all in one site gives guests an option to stay in a safe and secured environment.  In the beginning, there will be increased Police presence on-site, as well as professional security guards. Those who are loitering on school property but not engaging in services will be asked to leave the premises.

Q:  Are you going to keep the guests at Bellingham HS or will they be walking around the neighborhood?
Guests are encouraged to be respectful of neighbors. They will only access the facility through the Ohio Street entrance, away from residential areas.

Q:  Who is in charge? Who will make sure those being served have their needs met? And who will ensure the school and the neighborhood are cared for as well?
While this is a collaborative, innovative partnership to help protect our community’s most vulnerable, the Lighthouse Mission is the lead agency. Its Drop-In Center at BHS will be managed as it is in its current location, with the same staff, but supplemented with staff from other agencies who have similar, appropriate skills.

Q:  Will there be sex offenders be using the DIC at Bellingham High?
No, there are no registered sex offenders currently staying at the Drop-In Center nor will there be any at the high school.

Q:  The School District has said that meal service will continue for students at many schools, will neighborhood students know not to go to BHS for meal service?
There are no planned district operations on site while this temporary shelter is operational.

Q:  Will the high school be safe for students to return to, after the DIC shuts down there?
Yes, one of our responsibilities will be to ensure the facility is properly cleaned and sanitized according to best practices before school activities  resume. 

Q:  Who do I call or email if I have a question or concern?
Please contact Jessica Hess at jessicah@thelighthousemission.org or (360) 733-5120 ext. 103.

Q:  Will there be required religious services at the shelter?
There will be prayer and Bible studies offered, although these activities are voluntary to shelter guests. There is no religious participation requirement to receive any services provided at the DIC.

City of Bellingham response to COVID-19

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