Three weekends ago, Deschutes County entered Phase One of reopening: restaurants, shops and boutiques welcomed customers inside for the first time in months. On Monday, the Deschutes County Commissioners voted to send its Phase Two reopening application to the State which would allow gatherings of up to 100 people outside. If approved, local theaters, pools, churches and camps could reopen as soon as Friday.
- Laurel Brauns
- Shevlin Park, which is managed by Bend Park and Recreation District, was never closed during the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns in Central Oregon. Last weekend, the trails were crowded with both locals and visitors.
Meanwhile, anti-tourism sentiment exploded on social media. People who live here feared outsiders coming to visit and bringing coronavirus with them. Strong non-essential travel advisories are flaccid without enforcement mechanisms.
Historically, Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest of the season, and this year it fell on the second weekend of the county's official reopening. Despite the ongoing recreational travel ban, visitors from the Willamette Valley flooded into Bend. Visit Bend—along with city and state officials—have been broadcasting the message to "stay home, stay safe," even after Deschutes County entered Phase One.
It doesn't look like it's working.
Visit Bend reported the city's hotel and rental occupancy rate at 64% on Saturday May 23, compared to 23% at the beginning of this May. Last year, on the same weekend, lodging was 94% full. The report showed that many local lodging properties substantially lowered their rates compared to last year, which will drive down the city's transient room tax collections. Occupancy for all of Central Oregon was 62% on May 23, quadrupling from the weekend before.
"It's concerning how many people disregarded state and local restrictions on non-essential travel over Memorial Day weekend, and we're hopeful the uptick in visitors won't lead to further spread of COVID-19," said Kevney Dugan, Visit Bend's CEO. "Visit Bend will continue to urge potential visitors to stay safe and stay home until the Governor deems it appropriate to resume leisure travel. While we're not yet ready to welcome guests to Bend, the enthusiasm for Bend travel does bode well for the city's economic recovery once the pandemic is behind us."