County council working to close all lodging facilities/transient moorage in the San Juan Islands through end of May

"We should shut it all down," said San Juan County Council member Bill Watson at the Monday, March 23, 2020 council meeting.

The three council members - Watson, Rick Huges and Jamie Stephens - voted unanimously to ask the county medical officer, Dr. Frank James, to close all lodging facilities, transient rentals, transient moorage, camping at airports immediately through the end of May. 

Health and Community Services Director Mark Tompkins said he will work with Deputy Prosecutor Jon Cain on determining the legal options the county has - whether it has jurisdiction over moorage and airports. A meeting of the county Board of Health and Dr. James will be scheduled as soon as possible.

The council said there would be some exceptions for essential services - road work crews, etc.

Dr. Frank James has the authority to close down facilities. 

As to Washington State Ferries, Hughes said they cannot deny service to any Washington resident. And they are not going to ask people for their drivers licenses. 

The council members are concerned that vacationers would put too much stress on the limited supplies and medical services available in the islands. They are also worried that people would bring the COVID 19 virus with them. 

The council voted to immediately close camping at county parks  through the end of May. The park's will remain open for day use, staff will stress the importance of social distancing.

The Parks Dept put out the following statement at the end of the day.

"By order of the San Juan County Council and in the best interest of the public and our staff, all four County Parks are closed to camping until May 30, 2020. This action was taken on Monday, March 23, in an effort to flatten the spread of COVID-19.

"Camping reservations for arrival between now and May 30 at any of the four San Juan County campgrounds will be cancelled with full refunds given. No new reservations will be accepted until further notice.

"At the present time, Day Parks and day use are still open, though we ask all visitors to please follow CDC guidelines for 'social distancing'. Some restroom facilities may be closed and there will be no drinking water available in any of the parks."

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5 comments

  • Michael Barnes
    Michael Barnes Monday, 23 March 2020 17:59 Comment Link

    Considering the ferry system, I agree there should be limitations both directions, but if Peace Island in not testing or treating, my worry is the very sick or elderly need hospitals and doctor willing to help.
    There are no medical facilities on San Juan that can do much more then test. So for critical patients the stay home or not leave the island will not work ! However tourists coming here are already breaking this new law by leaving there home and NOT for the things the Govenor talked about ! But getting medical care is well within the parameters payed out by the Govenor.
    So, as the Govenor said “ can be enforced by the police” that would qualify under riding the ferry here for a vacation or day trip.

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  • Cookie
    Cookie Monday, 23 March 2020 14:49 Comment Link

    Although painful as this is my bread and butter I think this is wise and necessary. We must protect our community and get through this as well as we can.

    I have many clients going back and forth from the islands to Seattle. They have friends and family coming and going like this is vacation. I see them hanging in groups at public beaches and hiking trails. It's very scary that they are not treating this with care. The islanders are feeling frustrated, scared and angry with all the visitors here. Please help us keep our community as safe as we can!

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  • Hobbes Buchanan
    Hobbes Buchanan Monday, 23 March 2020 12:58 Comment Link

    This is great news SJ County Council, thank you!

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  • Sharon Abreu
    Sharon Abreu Monday, 23 March 2020 12:20 Comment Link

    I would think that, under the circumstances, the WSF should be denying anyone who doesn't live in San Juan County, access to the Anacortes ferries.

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  • Truth to Power
    Truth to Power Monday, 23 March 2020 12:06 Comment Link

    Dear County Council,

    Great idea! Let's take this a step further. Since we know that there has been at least one case in the Islands and likely others undiagnosed. We can take no chances.

    Immediately close down the Ferry system. We must equally stop any islanders from coming to the mainland as they represent potential danger to the rest of the state and the world. They must not have access to mainland stores, medical facilities or the uninfected that they would put in danger. The Coast Guard should stop any private boat traffic and the airfields must be immediately closed down. Hunker down, keep your guns unlocked and loaded. Guard our shores from the invading masses!

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