Opening up Jefferson County safely


How wonderful to be given the option by our governor to open up businesses and resume commerce in Jefferson County due to our past record of no new COVID-19 cases since April 9. Yet do we dare? The main concern I hear people sharing is a fear that “the tourists” will bring COVID-19 to our county. Yes, this is very likely, yet local businesses thrive on tourism. Yikes, what to do? Creativity is one of Port Townsend’s greatest assets; let’s capitalize on PT’s awesome talents!

I suggest businesses be allowed to have a two-tiered-system of physical distancing regarding services they provide to consumers.

Businesses can then safely open up with full services for Jefferson County residents and only limited services for those from out-of-county, due to having a higher likelihood of exposure. We can return to supporting local businesses now with a two-tiered system of service allowing appropriate physical distancing for all customers — different, but determined by risk of exposure to COVID-19. Some examples of how this might look are: Indoor seating in restaurants for customers with a Jefferson County ID, while only take-out service and outdoor seating for tourists; Curb-side pick-up for tourists and in-store service for locals. Masking, taped lines at the cash register, limits to table sizes and a limited number of customers in stores would also be a part of offering safe distancing to local residents. Businesses could use creativity and common sense in creating business practices with new regulations allowing them to ask customers for identification to decide the safest level of services for local residents and tourists alike.

Sol Riou
Port Townsend


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Hi Sol- I don't know if you have a business that is needing a plan or not. I do, and deal with some 60,000 visitors from near and far yearly. Not all are thoughtful guests. Near and far included. We don't do "tourists". Everyone is welcome and judged on problems or lack of that they bring along.

The cornerstone for smart behavior seems to be to assume everyone and everything has virus that can be picked up and transmitted. Of course risk factors vary with location. At this point we are all still learning and processing evolving information from varied sources.

Carding people at my door would lead to many irate folk who would take out frustration on me and my manager, "we live here, my sister is from Port Angeles, don't be stupid" is what I will run into.

I was closed yesterday as we have been the last 2 months. A customer made an appointment to pick up custom work ordered prior to the shut down. He lives in Hadlock. My manager and I, although closed, were wearing masks. She has had no contact with anyone since the shut down and is frankly a bit scared, her husband has a heart condition.

The person picking up the piece did not have a mask. He said all info regarding the virus was overblown. In speaking with him I found out he also has a home in Redmond, where he just returned from, and just traveled far out of the area for business by car. He would pass your screening and perhaps have a meal with friends at a local eatery. Restaurants have specific issues that need to have uniform policies.

Is PT special? Can we pull together and get ready for the people from both near and far that will visit, and really already are? Can we avoid "them and us"?

What you suggest is a uniform and targeted effort. That aspect is great. We would need city government, Chamber of Commerce, and Main Street on board for consistent messaging and preparation. It is almost too late for that already, given the political nature of all things. Who could possibly take the lead? It is a no win situation someone would have to believe in and be ready for some backlash. Hell, the appointed Mayor and City Council can't even deal with parking. On purpose.

My personal plan is to limit occupation to just a few people at a time. I am changing displays and layout to better keep limited visitors in zones inside my business. No one will enter without a mask. I have to have disposable masks and hand sanitizers on hand. Handling things like cutting boards and wood spatulas, or anything can no longer occur. No one wants to buy a virus to take home. We must error on the side of caution and assist visitors who are customers with selection, one at a time, at distance. A dozen or more people a day can no longer just walk in and sort through raw wood without gloves or hand sanitizer required. My manager's safety, and her perception of what that entails is my starting point. She just sent me information on "viral loads" that explains air and surface transmissions.

The dreamer in me envisions Port Townsend as a welcoming but unforgiving host, for the benefit of all. Without overt discrimination. The historic district is one of the most likely places for virus transmission. Unavoidable signage, even friendly informational checkpoints, available masks, gloves at businesses if visitors need them, handwashing stations as County Fairs now have for salmonella "because we care" should be on every corner, and a no BS mask required policy to level the risk among all, is my best shot.

If any visitor can't show us and other visitors that courtesy, we can't host your visit. You also need friendly police or volunteers along with business employees, to remind those who will feel special and outside the rules. There must be consistent messaging and understand the science behind certain policies. A few weeks ago I felt funny wearing a mask to shop for groceries. Now I feel funny not wearing one. Not wearing one is like spitting on the sidewalk. People regularly do.

Some local artisans or even members of varied organizations can make masks stylish and fun if customers want to go that direction. I have space outside for any local crafter to sell handmade art and fashion masks along with utilitarian masks. There is room in town for many more. Years ago at fairs I remember people with foot pump sewing machines making hats as people watched and ordered special designs and fabrics. Doing this we can light the way, keep all as safe as possible, even if overkill for some, and establish "our" new "normal".

Or, it can be a haphazard politically correct in all directions free for all.

That is the best shot I have in a world that has no good or uniformly accepted answers. Who in local politics will stand up and take the heat? Usually it's the sound of crickets.

Harvey Windle

Forest Gems Gallery

Thursday, May 14