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As weather warms, officials urge Clark County residents to socially distance

With warmer days around the corner for Clark County, authorities are commending residents here for largely adhering to recommended health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic and urging them to continue doing so.

The high temperature in Vancouver on Tuesday was 60 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Portland. Following a chilly night with patchy frost, forecasters are predicting highs of 68 and 69 for the area on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

The temperature should fluctuate between 61 and 64 degrees into next week, according to the weather service.

Tracy Fortmann, superintendent of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, said that despite its facilities closing on March 17, people have been using the fort’s grounds to exercise and soak up some sun rays, especially on Sunday, when the temperature reached 60 degrees and higher.

She said fort officials have reported that people are protecting themselves by practicing social distancing when using the public space.

“They’re not putting themselves at risk from what we’ve seen, and we think they’ll continue that as it gets nicer outside,” Fortmann said.

According to a COVID-19 Community Mobility report produced by Google, visits to parks last week in Washington decreased by 11 percent, compared with baseline statistics. In Clark County, visits to parks last week decreased by 3 percent. Retail and recreation outings have decreased by 46 percent.

Clark County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Brent Waddell said in an email that nothing has changed in how deputies are addressing residents out and about while Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order is in effect, which was extended last week through May 4.

The sheriff’s office previously told The Columbian that deputies aim to educate rather than punish people for noncompliance. Deputies won’t detain, arrest, ticket or establish checkpoints for compliance. Rumors of strict policing or martial law are untrue, Waddell said.

Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp similarly said its police officers are not planning anything different as temperatures get warmer.

“We have not seen a noticeable problem with groups congregating. If we do, we will provide them education regarding the social distancing guidelines and the stay home order or if needed request them to disperse,” Kapp said.

People can still be outside walking, working in their yards and exercising; they just need to socially distance, she said.

As the city has had off-and-on nice days over the past month, the police department has noticed an increase in thefts from garages, Kapp said. People are working in their yards or leaving their garage doors open, and thieves are accessing the garage and stealing items, she said.

Warm-weather crime-prevention tips can be found on the police department’s website.

Washougal Police Chief Wendi Steinbronn said in an email that there haven’t been many calls about people congregating when and where they shouldn’t be. There were a couple of calls about people at the Washougal High School football field, but officers responded and addressed the issue, she said.

Steinbronn said her department will be at normal staffing levels this coming weekend, with no plans to increase the numbers of officers at this time. She simply asked people to follow the governor’s order.

“It’s OK to get outdoors, but don’t congregate and observe social distancing,” Steinbronn said.



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