PACIFIC COUNTY — People can once again drive on Pacific County beaches after barricades blocking the approaches were removed on Monday, May 18.
The reopening of the beach approaches was one step in Pacific County’s measured restart plan, which was released Monday. The plan details how the public health orders issued by the county will be lifted in coming weeks.
Pacific County’s public health order was issued on March 22 by Dr. Steven Krager, public health officer for the county. The order was updated on March 23 and April 9. It closed county beach approaches, prohibited hospitality lodging except for essential workers and closed recreational clam digging.
Gov. Jay Inslee did not order hospitality lodging, such as hotels and RV Parks, closed as part of his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. To help reduce travellers to the area, Pacific County elected officials, public health officials and Krager decided to order the hospitality closure as well as the beach approach closure.
Because of that, the county must make its own plan for phasing in the local hospitality industry.
Phase one is scheduled to last from May 11 through May 31. During this time, beach approaches will reopen seven days a week as of May 18. Clam digging will be allowed on three weekdays, May 21, 26 and 28, if the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife agrees to hold digs on those days.
Phase two is scheduled to begin on June 1 and end on June 21. Some hospitality businesses would be allowed to reopen during this time at a reduced capacity. Safety plans must be in place before businesses can reopen.
Hotels and motels with fewer than 20 units could have no more than 50% filled. Businesses with more than 20 units could have no more than 25% of its units filled, or no more than 10 rooms filled, whichever is the greater number.
Reservations for vacation rentals must be for a minimum of 72 hours between check in and check out.
Full hookup RV parks and campsites will be allowed to fill 50% of units for self-contained RVs. Tent and dry campsites will be allowed to fill 25% of sites.
The public health order banning clam digging will be fully lifted on June 1, but whether clam digging will be held will be up to WDFW.
Phase three is scheduled to begin June 22 and last until July 12. Hotels and motels will move to 50% occupancy during this phase. Tent and dry campsites will be allowed to increase to 50% capacity. Rules for vacation rentals will stay the same.
The beach approaches will be opened, except for Fourth of July weekend. Pacific County officials are waiting to see what the crowds on Memorial Day weekend are like, before deciding whether to keep the beach approaches open during the July Fourth weekend.
Phase four is scheduled to begin July 13 and it isn’t decided when it will end. Occupancy levels will increase to 75% for hotels, motels, full hookup RV parks and campsites. Rules for vacation rentals will stay the same.
Pacific County’s phases align with the state’s restart phases. The state is expected to enter phase 2 of reopening on June 1, with people allowed to return to working in jobs such as, hair and nail salons, barbers, pet groomers, real estate, nannies and house cleaners. Restaurants are expected to be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity in phase 2 as well.
Hospitality businesses will be required to submit a safety plan prior to reopening. Examples of things businesses must have in place before reopening include: remote check-in; business-provided masks; barriers at points of check-in; employee health screening; restricted elevator use to one party at a time; public spaces closed, such as spas, hot tubs, gyms and lounges; communal restrooms cleaned and disinfected twice a day; a log of guests, with information kept on file for a minimum of four weeks; and other hygiene and operations requirements.
The county's full order, its phased approach plan, the states phased approach plan and the hospitality lodging checklist can be found here: https://www.chinookobserver.com/phased-reopening-plan/pdf_a20a6032-9972-11ea-941e-0f81d052f7c1.html
Decision to reopen
The Pacific County Board of Commissioners, local mayors and Sheriff Robin Souvenir approved the restart plan on Friday, May 15 during a Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Council meeting.
The plan to change the public health order was made in collaboration with elected officials, public health officials and the Pacific County Emergency Operations Center. Pacific County Administrative Officer Kathy Spoor said the reopening meant it was even more important for people to observe social distancing and hygiene measures.
"If we're going to be successful and we don't have to back peddle on this we're going to need people to be mindful, and stay away with each other as best we can," Spoor said.
The governor's ban on non-essential interactions will still be in place until at least June 1, and even then it will be limited to areas near people's places of residence, said Katie Lindstrom, health department director. This reopening is meant more for locals than to encourage vacationing in the county.
Recreational visitors should be able to return to the area during phase three of reopening, which is expected to be near the end of June. In the meantime, Spoor pointed to the message sent out by Visit Ocean Shores Facebook page, which asked visitors to "prepare for your visit with kindness."
The City of Long Beach reopened its beach approaches in collaboration with the county. Long Beach closed its three beach approaches on the morning of March 22, with the county ordering its approaches closed later that day. Mayor Jerry Phillips said at the time the closure was spurred by an influx of visitors.
Washington State Parks connected to ocean beaches will not reopen until phase two, unless directed to open by Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, said Anna Gill, Communications Director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife was coordinating with counties about reopening fishing in the outer coast Marine Areas 1 through 4, said Dan Chadwick, a captain with WDFW. There is no clear date on when that might happen, but the department is working toward restarting fishing.
There is also the possibility of a last razor clam dig before the season ends, which is something Pacific County officials would support. However, annual licenses expired earlier this spring, so new ones would be required.
Pacific County officials also said in the emergency council meeting they would not object to saltwater fishing reopening.
The approach closures made it difficult for vehicles to access the beach, though it did not stop people from walking on the beach. The order technically did not prohibit people driving on the beach, as much of the beach area is state highway and closure would have required an order from Inslee's office.