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People flock outdoors in western Washington, as officials warn of fourth COVID-19 wave

Health officials in Washington are urging people to continue to social distance and mask up as sunny weather brings more people outside for gatherings.

SEATTLE — Warm weather and clear skies brought many out to Seattle parks and beaches Saturday afternoon, as officials instituted additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

David and Siouxie Koch took a walk on Alki Beach in West Seattle.

“This is heaven,” he laughed. “This is what we’ve been waiting for… feels like a bit of summer already.”

They had plenty of socially-distanced company on the waterfront greenway, as people came out of their homes to enjoy the sunshine. The thermometer at Sea-Tac airport recorded 80 degrees for the first time in 2021, according to the National Weather Service office in Seattle.

At the same time, pandemic restrictions are still in effect. Seattle Parks and Recreation said Friday it was installing new signs to remind people to mask up and stay at least six feet apart from those not in your pod. The department also said staff would be in the more popular parks through the weekend to remind people, and hand out masks.

Gov. Jay Inslee encouraged people to take advantage of the weather Thursday, calling on Washingtonians to “Take It Outside” for gatherings the next few weeks to quell the growing fourth wave of COVID cases.

“And the reason is, is that this is a simple, cost free, extremely healthy way to go about our business in the next several weeks,” Inslee said. “And frankly, it's imperative because this number is going to continue to go up unless something changes in our state.”

Already, three counties have reverted to Phase 2 restrictions in the past week, and King County’s metrics are teetering on the edge of a similar change.

The Kochs, both masked for their walk, said they felt safe with other peoples’ adherence to safety measures.

“The masks, we’ve been noticing as we’ve been taking our walk that people are staying pretty well with them,” David said. “And the distancing is still really good.”

Lee Kellett was also out on a walk, and felt a sense of hope for the future. She had COVID-19 last March and April, and now looks forward to better days.

“At this point, our circle is pretty excited about vaccinations,” she said. “So I feel like we'll be able to get out and enjoy friends in the outdoors. You know, a little bit larger groups as the summer continues.”