Curry County Commissioners unanimously passed an order to close all transient lodging facilities in Curry County at an emergency meeting on Friday, March 27. The closure is effective at 5 p.m. Friday, March 27.
The order contains exceptions for “current users registered for longer than 30 days, victims of domestic violence, health care workers, government workers, first responders, veterans and other persons deemed by the city, county or state to be essential or necessary during the pandemic.”
The order came in response to learning from Governor Kate Brown that she did not intend to issue an order to close transient lodging facilities along the coast because it wouldn’t be an order that applied statewide, according to County Administrator Julie Schmelzer. Over the past week, several coastal communities and counties had requested that the governor order the closures per a resolution supported by State Rep. David Brock Smith (R-District 1) as part of the Oregon Legislative Coastal Caucus.
“We were advised to proceed with our own declaration if we wanted to do that,” Schmelzer said.
Some coastal communities do not want closures, according to Rep. Smith, who attended the meeting via telephone.
The Curry County order would not apply to cities that have passed their own resolutions. The City of Gold Beach passed an order on March 24 that closed transient lodging facilities within the city limits. The City of Brookings passed a similar order on March 26. According to Smith, the City of Port Orford was meeting on March 27 to consider a similar order.
Smith pointed out that Harbor has some lodging facilities within the county but outside of Brookings city limits, and with restaurants being take-out only, it puts a strain on shopping facilities in Brookings. Not only is it straining resources, but it increases the chance for the continued spread of the disease, he said.
“I echo what representative Smith said,” Gold Beach City Administrator, Jodi Fritts said. “I would really like to see something adopted today. There are motels and RV parks in close proximity to Gold Beach that if visitors come there, it’s effectively going to negate the resolution that we adopted because they are still going to be shopping in our stores, using the stock that’s there.”
Lincoln, Tillamook and Clatsop counties have also passed orders prohibiting overnight visitor lodging. Tillamook County closed boat ramps and beaches, as well.
The draft order for Curry County contained a section that would close “recreational waterways and their beaches and gravel bars,” which caused concerns for Curry County Sheriff John Ward and for citizen David Barnes, who both spoke against that provision at the meeting. Reports over the previous weekend said some beaches were crowded, according to Schmelzer.
“The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t understand why it had to add some of the language, which I will not support and I will not enforce,” said Ward. “I have no idea why, and the governor doesn’t support this because the governor says she wants people to recreate, just stay 6 feet apart. So when you say close all waterways and beaches and gravel bars, people need to be able to get out of their houses.
“We’re facing an issue where law enforcement is going to be dealing with a lot of domestic violence with people losing their jobs, losing their income and not being able to pay for their mortgages…I will not support this resolution the way it’s written…There’s no place in this county where you can’t get 6 feet away apart.”
Barnes echoed the comments of Sheriff Ward.
“I go to the beaches here every day, and you have to walk a good bit of distance to be within 6 feet of somebody,” Barnes said. “Last night I was up on there for the sunset on the jetty and couldn’t see anyone on the beach for as far as I could see to the south.”
Barnes also brought up that a lot of RV parks in the county begin their season on May 1, where people rent seasonally from year to year.
Before passage, the order was amended to remove the section closing waterways, beaches and gravel bars.
The other concern brought up by Beth Barker Hidalgo via an email to Commissioner Sue Gold, expressed concerns about homeless individuals who might become ill and need to be sheltered. Commissioners agreed that language in the order provided “necessary discretion” for making exceptions.
According to Schmelzer, the Oregon Department of Transportation will place signs at the north and south borders of the county informing travelers of the closures.