SEATTLE, WA — The Fourth of July holiday is always an especially busy time for Washington’s ferries, but the pandemic is likely to make this holiday much, much worse.
The Washington State Department of Transportation, or WSDOT, says that more than 100 of their ferry employees are at high risk for the coronavirus and are unable to work— that has forced them to cut down on the number of daily sailings, which will make wait times and back-ups especially severe when Washingtonians begin to travel for the long weekend.
State Ferries estimate the worst of it will be Thursday for ferries heading westbound, and Sunday for boats heading east as the mass of travelers return home. The longest wait times are likely to be at the Edmonds, Kingston, Mukilteo and Clinton ferry terminals. WSDOT says all of those terminals are already fairly busy, and likely to only get worse through the holiday.
While they do expect many people to go on vacation this holiday weekend, ferry officials want to remind everyone that they’re not really supposed to travel right now. Part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan to combat the coronavirus places limits on non-essential travel, in an attempt to slow the virus’ spread.
“I know how service changes can be frustrating, especially for communities that rely on us as a vital link to the mainland. I ask for your patience during this difficult time, when most counties remain under directives to travel for essential purposes only,” said Amy Scarton, head of Washington State Ferries.
WSDOT is offering a few tips to help travelers avoid too back-ups:
Passengers should also know that Washington State Ferries have implemented a few new coronavirus safety regulations including:
Facial coverings are now required aboard the ferry.
Physical distancing will be strongly encouraged, and walk-on passengers may be limited to allow for more physical space.
Passengers in vehicles are encouraged to remain inside their cars through the entire sailing.
Finally, WSF wants to remind everyone that it is illegal to take fireworks aboard a ferry.
As we draw closer to the holiday weekend, live updates on back-ups, delays and sailing conditions can be found on WSF’s twitter page here.
This article originally appeared on the Seattle Patch