As the COVID-19 virus continued to intensify throughout Washington State and much of the world, Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler spent last weekend working by phone to get input from a myriad of sources in order to draft an “Executive Order directing closures and curfews within the City of Ocean Shores to take immediate action to help reduce and stop the potential spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.”
The draft of the order, which she described as “rather sweeping,” was sent to Ocean Shores City Council members for their input around mid-day Monday, but a short while later it was announced the Washington Governor Jay Inslee would “address the public to lay out enhanced strategies to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The mayor put everything on hold, and Inslee subsequently announced a “Stay home, Stay healthy” order, which covered almost everything that the Ocean Shores order would have addressed.
An hour later, Dingler issued an Executive Order that acknowledged Inslee’s stay-home directive, added closure of all beach approaches and a 12 midnight to 5 a.m. local curfew, but did not close hotels and other commercial lodging establishments.
Inslee’s proclamation also did not close hotels, and a 14-page appendix to Inslee’s proclamation, a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers,” includes hotel workers, under the heading, “Other community-based government operations and essential functions.”
Dingler said Tuesday morning, “I’ve asked the governor’s office for clarification on hotels in tourist areas,” adding, “We are looking at whether or not to shut them down.”
She said closing beach approaches “removes some temptation, but not all,” that folks may have to visit Ocean Shores, which she said is “thankfully, free of COVID-19 so far.” She said she understands that “some people are really scared; they really want to get out of where they are that has a problem. The trouble is, they may inadvertently bring that problem with them.”
The mayor’s order took effect at 12 noon Tuesday and runs through April 10, coinciding with the end of governor’s order.
In the Ocean Shores order, closures, non-closures and beach approaches not covered by the governor’s order are detailed as follows:
• Public restrooms, and public recreational facilities (whether publicly-owned or privately- owned) will be CLOSED.
• All City parks shall remain OPEN but play areas, cook shelters and picnic tables (high touch areas) will be CLOSED.
• All City-owned boat launches and public docks remain OPEN.
• All beach approaches shall be CLOSED to vehicles, except emergency, enforcement and maintenance vehicles. There shall be no parking at the closed beach approaches except in specified parking areas.
• A general curfew is hereby established throughout the City. The curfew will be in effect daily from 12:00 a.m. (midnight) to 5:00 a.m., and shall include but not be limited to the prohibition on pedestrian and vehicular movement, standing and parking, except for the provision of designated essential services such as fire, police and hospital services, including the transportation of patients thereto, utility emergency repairs, emergency calls by physicians, and commercial food delivery services.
The problem of a pandemic causing a tourist town to suddenly fear what is normally the area’s lifeblood became increasingly apparent in Ocean Shores over the weekend. The city saw a lot of vehicles and people, seemingly here to escape the more populous areas. Dingler said the local IGA grocery store “was really, really busy … we’re slowly running out of supplies.”
She also said there were numerous observed examples of social distancing being ignored, both in stores and on local beaches. By Monday, many downtown retail stores had posted closed signs, and hotel parking lots had only a few cars. Tuesday morning, temporary barriers were erected on the beach approaches within the city. Monday afternoon, Grays Harbor County closed beach approaches including the heavily used one just north of Ocean Shores on Damon Road.
Dingler said to help residents in need, the city will continue offering free meals, prepared and packaged by the staff of the Ocean Shores Convention Center and delivered by volunteers from the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). They are available by delivery only, and may be ordered by calling the Convention Center at 360-289-4411. She said 70 were delivered Monday and the number is expected to steadily rise.