LONG BEACH PENINSULA — Following a complaint from an epidemiologist who was visiting the Long Beach Peninsula earlier this month, Pacific County officials said they plan to play a more active role in enforcing rules requiring mask-wearing and social distancing in restaurants and businesses.
At a Sept. 23 Pacific County Emergency Management Agency meeting held via Zoom, PCEMA Director Scott McDougall recounted a phone conversation he had with a University of Washington epidemiologist earlier in the week. The epidemiologist told McDougall that he recently visited the peninsula and is looking to buy property in the area, but was concerned about the lack of mask-wearing he observed by patrons and staff in some restaurants.
McDougall said the man was so concerned that he said he would not be frequenting local restaurants until the pandemic concludes, and would be advising his colleagues to do the same.
“The decision of a few are having wide-ranging impacts outside of the community and potentially all of the restaurants — whether they’re compliant or not,” McDougall said during the meeting.
McDougall advised him of local law enforcement’s position of educating violators on current restrictions, rather than enforcement, and said the epidemiologist suggested the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department take a more active role in enforcement by imposing monetary penalties it is entitled to under the law to those in violation of health orders.
County human services manager Jamie Graves-Haslam said during the meeting that the county was aware of about three businesses in particular in Long Beach that are actively violating covid-19 restrictions. These businesses have even shared on social media platforms that they will not abide by or enforce protocols such as mask-wearing or social distancing.
In response to businesses that continue to flout restrictions, Graves-Haslam said the department is working with Public Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager, Pacific County Department of Community Development and the county prosecutor’s office to come up with a plan to deal with the violators. The first steps will probably call for county officials to alert the businesses via a phone call and letter that they are aware of the reported violations.
“If we keep continuing to receive [reports of violations], somebody is going to be coming out to look and then there could be ramifications for that,” said Graves-Haslam. “But we’re trying to figure out what [the ramifications are], whether that’s under the health officer having to do that or whether DCD can do that, since law enforcement is probably not going to be the one to do it.”
County to open second round of grant assistance
After securing more CARES Act dollars from the state, Pacific County announced it is opening a second round of grant assistance for small businesses and non-profit organizations that have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
The next application window opens on Oct. 2 at 12 p.m. According to a news release, businesses and organizations that will be given top priority are those that have not received other coronavirus-related financial assistance, are not waiting to receive any previously applied for financial assistance, and are in danger of closing due to covid-19. Non-profits that are not able to fulfill their organizational mission or duties will also be given top priority.
Businesses that applied during the first round of grant assistance from Aug. 14 through Aug. 28 do not need to apply again, but can email Paul Plakinger at email@example.com to confirm the county has their application on file. Businesses that submitted incomplete applications during the initial window are encouraged to resubmit a completed or corrected application.
The funding window is set to close on Oct. 16 at 12 p.m., and the Pacific County Board of Commissioners are expected to approve grant awards at a virtual public meeting on Oct. 22.
New cases break 11-day streak
Two new covid-19 cases were reported in the county on Sept. 28, the first new cases attributed to Pacific County since Sept. 17 and bringing the county’s total case count to 82.
Both of the individuals are under 10 years old, part of the same household and are isolating at home, according to the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department. Case investigations and contact tracing are ongoing.
There are currently five active cases being monitored by public health nurses; the two aforementioned cases and three probable cases awaiting confirmation.
Statewide as of Sept. 20, 2,100 covid-19 deaths have been reported in Washington since the beginning of the pandemic, as well as 7,477 hospitalizations, up from 2,055 deaths and 7,296 hospitalizations a week ago. Three deaths and eight hospitalizations are attributed to Pacific County. There have been 86,638 reported cases of covid-19 in the state, up from 82,848 cases a week ago.