Jessica Cejnar / Thursday, July 2, 2020 @ 5:57 p.m. / Community, Fire, Our Culture
Despite COVID-19, Holiday Traffic Flows Into Del Norte; Crowds Expected At Beachfront Park, South Beach
COVID-19 may have spoiled local Fourth of July mainstays, but it hasn't kept holiday travelers out of Del Norte.
Crescent City Police Chief Richard Griffin said he's already seen RVs and trailers making their way into town, stopping at local gas stations to fuel up.
Though there won't be a parade or professional fireworks display this year, Griffin said he's doubled his staff for Friday and Saturday. Beachfront Park will be open to foot traffic, but closed to vehicles, though there isn't a festival this year, he said.
Parking will also be prohibited, Griffin said.
“I fully expect it to be packed down there,” he said, adding that South Beach will also be a hub of activity as well. “Part of it is everybody’s been cooped up in the surrounding counties and they normally come here for the Fourth of July. We’re going forward this year expecting the same amount of people we normally get, but probably more is what we’re looking at.”
Elsewhere in California, especially in Southern California, the Central Valley and parts of the Bay Area, counties are having halt their reopening process, closing dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, family entertainment centers and zoos and museums, due to increased COVID-19 cases.
This is not the case for Del Norte County, Emergency Services Manager Kymmie Scott told the Outpost.
Scott said the state keeps a monitoring list for counties based on the number of cases they have. Del Norte County was on that list during a COVID-19 outbreak in May, she said.
In the case of counties that have had to walk back their reopening process, Scott said, the state had been monitoring them for three days or more.
“Basically the idea is they don’t want anybody to get to a point where they’re so overwhelmed it becomes tragic,” Scott said. “Right now, knock on wood, we’re doing pretty well. Hopefully it will stay that way.”
Scott said she met with Griffin, Sheriff Erik Apperson, Crescent Fire Chief Bill Gillespie and other first responder groups with state and national parks on Wednesday. They focused on staffing levels and expectations for each agency and also called to determine if local hotels and campgrounds were booked.
Even without a parade, festival and a professional fireworks display, tourism hasn’t slowed, Scott said. She said she also realizes that many locals are welcoming family from out of the area too.
“Everybody misses each other and it’s hard not to hug and be affectionate,” Scott said. “You have to stay strong and, please, try to spend your time with each other outside. If you have to spend time inside wear masks. Make sure you continue to wash your hands, be careful about common use areas like the bathroom — continue to be careful.”
With three active COVID-19 cases, including one hospitalization, Del Norte County can continue its reopening process. On Wednesday, Public Health Officer Dr. Warren Rehwaldt issued guidance for local fitness centers and dance studios to follow as they resume classes.
Under Rehwaldt’s order, which cites guidelines from the California Department of Public Health, fitness classes can resume with no more than 10 individuals per class. Social distancing and mask-wearing is required and physical contact between participants is prohibited. Shared equipment and walk-on participation is also prohibited, according to Rehwaldt’s order.
Rehwaldt’s order also extended the deadline to July 24 for essential businesses and government entities to submit operating plans if they haven’t already done so.
Del Norte County is a small community with an emergency response system and a hospital that can overwhelmed quickly, Scott said.
She also pointed out that though everyone is focused on COVID-19, people need to keep in mind that it’s wildfire season too.
“Our first responder community is there for them,” she told the Outpost. “If they see fires, please call it in. If they see medical issues. please call it in. We’re here in partnership with them. We encourage people to be safe.”
For Gillespie and volunteer firefighters with Crescent City Fire & Rescue, Independence Day often ends at midnight or 2 o’clock the following morning. The ambulance will respond to medical calls, grassfires from a wayward fire cracker and bonfires left on the beach, he said. Like his counterparts, Gillespie said his department’s efforts will likely center around Beachfront Park and South Beach.
Gillespie also reminded folks that in California, the only fireworks that are legal are those that don’t shoot up into the air or explode, and even those can be a hazard.
He said people should keep a distance from grass, buildings and other flammable objects. If they have a dud, they should put it in a bucket of water so it won’t ignite — trash can fires are also common, he said.
People should also keep an eye on their kids, Gillespie said.
“Even the safe and sane fireworks, they’ll burn anywhere from 800 all the way to approaching 1200 degrees,” he said. “If they hit skin, they definitely burn.”
Sheriff Erik Apperson also pointed out that though it’s early, there’s still plenty of fuel that could catch the sparks from an aerial firework. And it’s dry and windy, he said.
Like other emergency responders, Apperson said his office has increased its staffing levels as well. He said he expects people to congregate on the beach, particularly those beating the heat from Southern Oregon.
“We’ve increased our patrol numbers and we’re going to have increased patrols of South Beach and Whaler’s Island,” he said. “We realize people are going to partake in celebrations around the Fourth of July and we’re very aware there’s going to be some non-California compliant fireworks. We’ll take whatever action we need to try to maintain public safety.”
Griffin, who gave out U.S. flag kits to those who wanted them, said he has about 30 left.
“I’m going to have some of those with them for city residents if somebody wants them,” the police chief said. “I want everybody to have a fun and safe Fourth of July.”