While the county and state COVID19 case-counts continue to drop, this week the Governor’s office and the Secretary of Health made additional changes & clarifications to Washington’s “Safe Start” program. Some of these changes may impact your travel plans while visiting Whidbey Island. While Island County is still technically under the Modified Phase 3 of the reopening plan, some of the restrictions have been re-tightened or further clarified from our last update (July 23rd).
Restaurants: In addition to the restrictions noted previously, some local restaurants have implemented their own company policies that further limit group seating. If you are traveling with any others, or meeting anyone for dining who are not part of your immediate household, don’t expect that you can be seated at the same restaurants, even at separate tables! If you arrive together, you may be turned away.
Museums: New guidance was given for museums open in the Phase-3 stage. While this certainly applies to the Island County Historical Museum in Coupeville, it’s unclear if these guidelines also apply to less formal museums or galleries.
- All patrons (over age 2) must wear cloth face coverings.
- Capacity (at Phase-3) is now reduced to 50%.
- Online or phone reservation systems for ticketing with staggered entry times should be used (check their website)
- One-way traffic flow is required.
Bowling: New restrictions on bowling lanes pushes phase 3 counties (like Island) back to phase 2 restrictions. Unfortunately you won’t find any bowling lanes open on Whidbey Island at this time. The historic E.B.’s Lanes in Coupeville has been closed for quite some time. The only bowling alley in Oak Harbor has not reopened since closing for COVID19. Check their website for updates.
This week the biggest impacts are further clarifications on large gatherings and limits on Agritourism.
- All outdoor recreation and sporting events are now limited to a maximum of 10 persons or less.
- An exception is provided for certain team sports that have submitted a written safety plan and requested a waiver. This waiver will allow the group size to be increased up to 50 people with the following limits:
- Limited to 1 even with one opposing team in 7 calendar days.
- No tournaments.
- No teams or players from outside the county.
Agritourism: It was also clarified that all the Phase-2 requirements for Agritourism still apply. Agritourism on Whidbey Island is a popular activity and includes such activities as Christmas tree farms, u-pick berry farms, corn mazes and pumpkin patches or any activity that attracts visitors onto a farm ranch or other agricultural business. The following restrictions now apply to such activities:
- Use of a cloth face coverings when visiting is required.
- Practice proper physical distancing.
- Activities such as hay/wagon/train rides, haunted houses, children’s play equipment, live games, farm equipment exploration, inflatable jumping houses, animal viewing, petting areas, paintball, and campfires are not permitted.
That said, “animal viewing” might include wildlife viewing, (it’s unclear) which is a big activity on Whidbey Island. Does this mean activities such as organized whale-watching tours are now prohibited? (We don’t know, so please check before coming if you are interested.) Surely bird-watching has not been prohibited? In any event, it’s best to avoid large groups.