Clam digging cancelled for this weekend

Local beaches are not closed, but clam digging this weekend has been cancelled.

Pacific County’s Health Officer ordered that all clam digs in Pacific County will be cancelled until further notice.

In a statement from Grays Harbor County Commissioner Vickie Raines, she states that the upcoming clam digs in Grays Harbor have also been cancelled until further notice.

Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott McDougall tells KXRO that the Pacific County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager ordered that all clam digs in Pacific County be cancelled until further notice in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

They say the prohibition on clam digging in Pacific County is in effect as of 12:01 AM on March 20, 2020 per the Health Officer’s Order, and remains in effect until further notice.

According to the release, the Deputy Health Officer has determined that this step is now necessary in Pacific County in light of the increasing scope and severity of the threat that COVID-19 poses.

The release Although no cases are confirmed in Pacific County at this time, the increasing instances of community spread in Washington State have influenced the decision.

The Deputy Health Officer issued the order due to: the increased likelihood that gatherings will attract people from a broad geographic area; the prolonged time period in which large numbers of people are in close proximity; the difficulty in tracing exposure when large numbers of people attend a single event; the inability to ensure that attendees follow adequate hygienic and social distancing practices; and the potential impact on community resources including food, pharmaceutical supplies, and healthcare resources.

They say for the purposes of the Order, “COVID-19 risk mitigation measures” include all of the following:  The space in which a permissible gathering is held must accommodate social distancing by allowing all attendees to stand or sit at least six feet from any other attendee; and proper hand hygiene and sanitation material must be readily available to all persons at all times, including soap and water, tissues, and waste receptacles (if soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used).

This Order does not ban access to public beaches.

However, they add as a reminder, that Pacific County recommends that people at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 stay home as much as possible.

This includes individuals over age 60, and/or those with serious, chronic medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or those who have weakened immune systems, etc.).

Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at risk for COVID-19 should contact their primary healthcare provider or an appropriate medical practitioner.

Pacific County also recommends everyone take steps to keep themselves and others healthy, including:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Stay home and away from others when sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.

Pacific County says that they will continue to update the public with information pertinent to COVID-19 as soon as it is available.

The WDFW issued a release confirming the cancellation.

They say state shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) had approved a dig after vetting it with county officials and health departments in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties, and after consultation with state health officials.

The cancelled digs include the following:

  • March 20, Friday 5:27 pm, 0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • March 21, Saturday, 6:07 pm, 0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • March 22, Sunday, 6:41 pm, 0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • March 23, Monday, 7:12 pm, 0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

“WDFW is responsive to the needs of local communities, and we manage razor clams in consultation with our coastal communities to ensure sustainable harvest,” said Larry Phillips, WDFW’s coastal region director. “But, under these circumstances, we need to include more than sustainable harvest in our decision making and do what is the best for the community. We understand that the county health department is responding to a global pandemic and WDFW is cancelling these digs to support that work and keep folks healthy.”

There was a lot of dialogue and a fairly long process to approve these digs in light of COVID-19 concerns, and it has been a rapidly evolving issue, he added.  “Typically, we would want to provide much more notice before cancelling a razor clam dig,” said Phillips.

Given the level of concern expressed in the communities, and the fact that some of the beaches open to razor clam digging fall within multiple counties, we also elected to close all currently open beaches to razor clam digging in order to provide consistency in approach, added Phillips.

WDFW has tentatively scheduled additional digs through April. Approval of these digs will be based on the results of marine toxin tests, assessment of available health information and further developments in consultation with local and state health authorities.