Wednesday, June 10, 2020

In rural town, virus threatens vital summer tourist revenue

A rural tourist town in north-central Washington state illustrates the consequences of the pandemic and the controversy it can cause among locals trying to keep the town afloat while staying safe.

Winthrop, Washington, which has fewer than 500 residents, depends on an influx of summer tourists who use the town as a jumping off point for hiking, biking, and mountain climbing nearby, Bill Lucia reports for Route Fifty. At least two dozen counties in the state have been approved for lighter restrictions, but Gov. Jay Inslee has still advised people to limit non-essential travel, including to tourist towns.

"Despite recommendations like this, tourist traffic will likely continue to flow into towns like Winthrop as the state eases virus-related restrictions and people who’ve been cooped up venture out, seeking to take advantage of long days and beautiful summer weather," Lucia reports. "It’s a set of circumstances many rural tourist destinations are apt to face in the months ahead."

Tourists flocked to Winthrop on Memorial Day weekend, and while some locals told Lucia they were grateful for the increase in revenue, others said most tourists weren't social distancing or wearing masks, and they were worried about the pandemic spreading. The area had only five confirmed covid-19 cases since mid-April, but the mayor said a bump in cases could strain scarce local medical facilities.

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