Ocean Shores businesses prepare for busy weekend amid pandemic

Despite cases of COVID-19 rising, Washington's coastline communities are expecting an influx of people for the Independence Day weekend. It's unclear how many people are expected to show up tot he coast, but businesses, local government, and emergency responders are preparing.

The weekend of July 4th means the unofficial start of summer. Warmer temperatures, sunnier skies, and people flocking to the beach. The only difference this year, compared to other years, COVID-19.

"It's not normal this year," said Ocean Shores Mayor, Crystal Dingler.

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Statewide, as of Friday, there are 34,778 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,352 deaths reported. Along the coastline, the number of confirmed cases remain minimal. Officials hope it remains that way.

"We don't want to be the hot spot where people come and catch the virus. That would be horrifying," said Dingler.

Despite that, the mayor, business owners and locals are expecting the typical rush of tourists.

"They're coming and they have an opportunity to enjoy themselves, but to also do all of those things to protect themselves," said Dingler. 

Unlike the influx of people that flocked to the beach in April and May during unseasonably warm temperatures, the mayor and businesses said people are more aware of new guidelines. Facemasks are now required statewide. Social distancing is now the norm.

As for plans this weekend, Mayor Dingler said fireworks are still permitted and a local casino plans on having a laser show with people remaining in their cars.

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Hotels are starting to get packed as well. 

The owner of the Ocean Spray Beach Resort said there are only four weekends left in the summer for availability. 

Other businesses like the Playtime Family Fun said they are expecting a big weekend.

"Our expectations this weekend is for this to be the biggest weekend of the year," said owner Mike Doolittle. 

According to Doolittle, the rush of business came quick since they reopened. Playtime Family Fun was closed for 11 weeks this year because of the pandemic.

"Tourism is the name of the game in Ocean Shores. That's what drives us. So, we're just here to help people have a good time," he said.

Go-karts and bumper cars will be thoroughly cleaned after every use, he said. 

Despite the influx though, the mayor and business managers said there has been some push back from local residents of having tourists come to the coast during this time. 

"There are people who are concerned about us having anybody come into town. What I'm trying to tell them is, we're trying to manage this. We're trying to hit that sweet spot," said Mayor Dingler.

The "sweet spot" she said is business thriving, and people being safe and responsible. 

She there will be extra patrols, fire crews and emergency management personnel to keep an eye on things. "To remind people to social distance, to wear masks when they can't social distance, and hand out bags so that people can clean up their own trash," she said.