LONG BEACH PENINSULA — As local officials expected, communities on the peninsula were overflowing during the Fourth of July weekend, even as newly confirmed cases of covid-19 reached record highs in Washington and the cities of Long Beach and Ilwaco canceled popular Independence Day firework shows.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide public facemask order was largely observed when people flocked to grocery stores to meet their holiday weekend needs. An Observer analysis, conducted on July 4 and 5 at Sid’s Supermarket in Seaview and Jack’s Country Store and Okie’s Thriftway Market in Ocean Park, found that about 90% of shoppers wore masks while inside the stores when the observations occurred.
Each grocery store had signage posted inside and outside their buildings imploring shoppers to wear masks. Karen Gove, front-end manager for Okie’s, estimated that about 98% of all customers she observed on Monday, July 6, following the weekend rush, were wearing masks. Overall, she said she has been pleased with how shoppers have adhered to the order.
Chuck Winn, manager of Sid’s, said the store requires its customers to wear masks. If a shopper does not have a mask, he said the store will supply them with one. While Sid’s was predictably busy over the weekend, he said the store was able to maintain social distance and health measures.
The statewide mandatory mask order went into effect on June 26, although local law enforcement agencies said they would not arrest people for not wearing a mask. Long Beach Chief of Police Flint Wright said businesses could call police if a person refuses to wear a mask in the business after being asked to, at which point he said it would become a trespassing issue. Pacific County Sheriff Robin Souvenir said his office is focused on education.
Another new mask order goes into effect
This week, a new, stricter statewide order went into effect on July 7, which states businesses must require all customers to wear masks and businesses may not serve a customer if they refuse to wear a mask. Previously, the order had only been in effect in Yakima County, which recorded about 3,400 new cases of covid-19 in June, by far the most of the state’s 39 counties.
“We’re doing this because of the very troublesome spike in the number of cases we are experiencing across the state of Washington,” said Inslee at a July 2 press conference announcing the new restrictions. “And because we know that the better we can protect ourselves from the virus, the better we can avoid repeating the painful shutdowns that we have had to experience in the last several months.”
Masks, Inslee said, are a “very, very low-cost, noninjurious, almost universally available tool at our disposal.” He said masks are a simple solution that we know works, and isn’t too much of a hassle to use.
“It’s just a piece of cloth, and it’s available to all of us,” said Inslee, who wore a mask during his press conference. “It does provide, if I were to wear a mask, it would provide me some protection. But more importantly, it protects the other people around me.”
Those with certain medical conditions and children under the age of two are exempt from wearing a face covering, while children ages 2-4 are encouraged, but not required, to wear face coverings. People may remove their masks while eating or drinking at a restaurant, while communicating with a person who is deaf or has partial hearing loss, or while outdoors in public areas when six feet of distance can be maintained from people who aren’t members of their household.
Gove said that in preparation for Tuesday’s mask order, Okie’s staff has been giving friendly reminders about the new mandate to shoppers who come into the store maskless. She said the store is still trying to determine how to go about dealing with maskless customers claiming a medical exemption, and is worried that people who aren’t actually exempt from wearing a mask will claim they have a medical condition so they do not have to wear one.
Coronavirus infections have been on an upswing statewide in recent days.
“As of July 6, the state reported 1,088 new cases for a total confirmed case count of 36,985. These new numbers are not just from one day — data processing issues over the holiday weekend caused a backlog. Over the past four days, the average daily case total has been 711. Total deaths are 1,370,” the state’s Joint Information Center reported.
Washington 211 Covid-19 Call Center: Do you need information or answers to your questions and concerns about the novel coronavirus (covid-19)? You can call 1-800-525-0127 or text 211-211 for help. You can also text the word “Coronavirus” to 211-211 to receive information and updates on your phone wherever you are. You will receive links to the latest information on COVID-19, including county-level updates, and resources for families, businesses, students, and more.