CLAYTON — The coronavirus scare from earlier in the week will not interfere with the Bassmaster fishing competition that’s coming to the village next week, local officials said Thursday.
Clayton officials spoke to the organizers of the Bassmaster Elite event on Thursday and notified them about two COVID-19 cases that were confirmed following a gathering of boaters on Picton Island near Clayton over the Fourth of July weekend.
Despite the spike in cases, Clayton Mayor Norma Zimmer said Thursday afternoon that organizers of the bass fishing competition confirmed the event will still take place in Clayton.
Local officials and the Bassmaster folks are comfortable with all of the precautions being put into place so that the competition can proceed.
“It’s no different than having tourists in town,” Mayor Zimmer said.
Eighty-four anglers will already be tested for the coronavirus before they arrive in Clayton on Saturday. They’ll be tested before the event begins.
The anglers will practice from Monday to Wednesday before competition is held from Thursday to Sunday.
Because of the virus, the Bassmaster organization will bring only half of its staff, the anglers cannot bring their families and only one will be competing in a boat, not the usual two fishermen at the competitions, said Tricia L. Bannister, executive director of the 1000 Islands Clayton Chamber of Commerce.
Last week, chamber officials were surprised to get a phone call from Bassmaster organizers that the event was getting moved to Clayton from Waddington, where it was held the last several years in St. Lawrence County.
“We’re very, very excited,” Mrs. Bannister said.
While huge crowds usually watch the competition from bleachers, spectators for the Clayton event will not be allowed, she said. It’s still quite a coup to land the Bassmaster competition because of the publicity that Clayton will receive from coverage by ESPN, she said.
Each day, anglers will compete from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then immediately return to lodging where they’re staying, she said.
The competition will start with 84 anglers on Thursday and Friday, get whittled down to 40 on Saturday and then finish up with 10 finalists on Sunday. Once an angler is out of the competition, they will leave Clayton and go home, Mrs. Bannister said.
Chamber and village officials have been working with Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Legislature, and the county to make sure everything is done to make the event safe for anglers and local residents, she said. A safety plan has been put together for the event.
“Everyone is on the same page. We’re following all the protocols,” she said. “We’re following all the guidelines.”
The Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain, hosted by the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau and the city of Plattsburgh, will continue as scheduled from July 30 to Aug. 2 in Plattsburgh.
Bassmasters is already scheduled to return to Waddington in 2021.
But Mrs. Bannister would love to see that plan change and have it end up in Clayton, she said.
Three Clayton restaurants temporarily closed on Wednesday to complete a thorough cleaning after the two COVID-19 cases were confirmed. An employee each from DiPrinzio’s Kitchen and the Wood Boat Brewery tested positive for the virus.
During the recent spike, Jefferson County confirmed four new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, eight more cases on Tuesday — matching the largest number of cases since the pandemic began in March — and six more on Wednesday for a three-day total of 18.
The county was able to connect the outbreak to a boat gathering of people at Picton Island during the Fourth of July weekend. The Jefferson County Public Health Service investigation revealed 67 contacts were caused by the positive tests.
But a county public health official warned that the recent spike in cases happened all over the county, not just in Clayton.
Stephen A. Jennings, public health planner for the Jefferson County Public Health Service, blamed the spike in COVID-19 cases on people gathering, in general, to celebrate during the Fourth of July weekend and not taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
Mr. Jennings said the spike in positive cases should remind people to be diligent in following the state’s coronavirus guidelines, to wear masks, stay six feet apart from each other and not gather in large settings.