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Ocean Shores tourism dips its toe in the water in Phase 2 reopening

The seaside town has reopened its beaches and businesses. Visitors this weekend appeared to be practicing social distancing from other groups.

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. — In Ocean Shores, big Memorial Day weekend seemed to go pretty well.

Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler says her tourist-oriented community only got the word around noon on Friday, that they, and the rest of Grays Harbor County would be receive Phase 2 status to reopen. That means businesses like hair salons and restaurants can operate at 50% capacity.

RELATED: 10 more counties in Washington can apply for Phase 2 of COVID-19 reopening

It wasn’t unexpected, and she says many businesses were already prepared to receive the go ahead.

“My husband and I did a walkabout,” says Dingler, checking out the beach and businesses for people maintaining at least six feet of distancing.

She was pleased with what she saw in Ocean Shores — which was in sharp contrast to places like that now famous picture of a pool bar in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri where large numbers of people are close together with no masks. 

On Monday, we didn’t see more than a few masks on the beach, but we notice couples and families staying together with each other, but maintaining their distance from strangers.

You can also drive your car on much of the beach here, and some people hung out in their vehicles, particularly as the weather on Monday was only around 60 with on and off mist and rain. 

Dingler says Saturday was the best day weather wise sunny and about 65. Sunday was overcast. 

The summer tourist season is the lifeblood of the town. Ocean Shores needs people to stay in hotels, rent bikes and go carts, get an ice cream cone and go out to dinner. But it’s also a town where the people who live here year-round are over 65 and retired, putting them in the high risk category for COVID-19.

Back in March and April when the pandemic was at its worst in this state, Dingler asked people to stay away, and lost out on the April spring break month which serves as a pre-season boost to the economy. This week she will convene city and business leaders to see how things went and what needs to be changed. 

And she acknowledges the risk going forward. Will visitors remain as vigilant later this summer as they appears to be doing now?

“I think there are people who are going to jump the gun, no matter what the rules are they want to do something more,” Dingler said. ”And I’m sympathetic, I’m pretty tired of the whole stay at home thing myself.”