Beach communities concerned about crowds flocking to coastal towns amid coronavirus outbreak

SEATTLE - As the cases of COVID-19 increase in our state with close to 1,800 cases and 94 deaths reported on Saturday, the need for people to practice social distancing guidelines is more crucial than ever.

State and federal officials are recommending avoidance of social gatherings, staying home, keeping a safe distance of about 6 feet from each other, and frequent hand-washing. The state’s closure of restaurants for dine-in, bars, and recreational facilities is in effect until March 31st.

But on a sunny, warm, Seattle day, on Saturday it looked like any other spring day.

Green Lake in Seattle was quite frankly, packed.

And while it's ok to go out for a walk or a run, you aren't allowed to go on the playgrounds or sport courts, according to King County officials in an announcement on Friday.

"We want to be responsible, we want to follow the rules and the guidelines and we feel like being outside technically this is ok for us to be here," said resident Leah Sligh.

But what happens when everybody else has the same idea?

"Being cooped up in a house and at work, just needed to get out to get a little fresh air," said resident Paul Morris.

According to Governor Jay Inslee, seeing all the people out-and-about and in some cases, not adhering to the guidelines, is concerning.

"We remain concerned that some in our state are not taking the measures that are absolutely necessary to preserve health and life and limb in the state of Washington," said Inslee during a press conference on Friday.

It wasn't just at the park on Saturday. The parking lot trailhead for Little Si in North Bend was packed. And in town, some restaurants were allowing customers to sit outside and enjoy their food and drinks.

Along the coast in Westport however, the flock of tourists coming to beach on Saturday was considered a hazard.

"Unfortunately too many people are utilizing this as a vacation or getting out for Spring Break," said Westport business owner and resident Adrienne Jones. "So, I have seen a heavy, huge influx of traffic, more traffic than I’ve seen mid-August.

Westport is a small town along the coast of Washington. While the town welcomes tourists with open arms typically, under these circumstances, it's become dangerous for those who live there, said Jones.

"We only have one grocery store in town, so community members are heavily relying on the stock in that store to stock our community up," she said.

The town's mayor on Saturday evening issued an order to close hotels and other rentals, hoping to stop the influx of out-of-towners from flocking to the coast.

And if people continue to ignore the social distancing guidelines, a statewide shelter-in-place order could come sooner than later, Inslee said Friday.

"We are all potential transmitters to this virus, and to some varying degrees we all are potential victims of this virus," he said.