As droves of people flood Oregon coastal towns on a weekly basis, there has been a rising concern among community leaders as it pertains to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
This concern stems from a pair of outbreaks in Lincoln City at local hotels, Inn at Spanish Head and Surftides. Because of this, the Lincoln City City Council decided this week to revisit the topic of a 24-hour hold rule for lodging business.
The Lincoln County commissioners along with the cities of Lincoln County had previously approved a 24-hour mandatory wait period for lodging staff to clean a room after it has been occupied by a visitor. Lincoln City later rescinded the rule at a June 19 meeting.
The City Council held a special meeting on Sept. 2, and allowed community members to speak, or write in comments, on the potential of reinstating the rule in town. Local representatives such as Lori Arce-Torres, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, urged the council not to reimplement the rule, stating that there has been conflicting reports about how long the virus can actually live on a service. Arce-Torres said “it’s illogical to conclude that the 24-hour hold will have any positive barring on preventing the spread of the virus.”
“We appreciate the hard work, on behalf of the residents of Lincoln City, and understand that the number one goal is to lessen the spread of the virus. However, we need to consider the financial impacts to the businesses who are trying hard to recover from the shutdown,” Arce-Torres said.
Also speaking at the meeting were representatives from the Captain Cook Inn, who said the 24-hour hold will be financial burden for both businesses and employees of those businesses. The local business owners acknowledged the current outbreaks in Lincoln City but stated they are very limited and mostly in the food service portion of the businesses.
All comments can be watched or read at http://lincolncityor.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx
City Manger Ron Chandler said the Council received 53 comments since the agenda packet was published and all comments were from the lodging industry, who were not in favor of reinstating the 24-hour rule.
Councilor Judy Casper kicked of the council’s discussion by addressing the conflicting information regarding the virus on surfaces, lack of data and lack of current information from health officials. However, she also stated it’s better to be safe than sorry, even though the numbers are down.
“I think it’s a good idea to take a look at this again,” Casper said. “We’ve had in influx in people coming and going in our county and it’ll show they are not counted here when they do have the virus… they go back (where they hold residence) and are counted.”
Casper also spoke about the safety concerns housekeeping staff have expressed to them. However, Councilor Mitch Parsons said he recently spoke with about 15-20 local housekeepers to poll their concern level and found that “most are more worried about their economic situation than the virus and don’t wish to lose hours or work,” said Parsons.
Out of those individuals, Parson said only one was worried about the virus, and most felt comfortable that they had what they needed to protect themselves.
Councilor Diana Hinton spoke about a recent Lincoln County Public Health report that stated Restaurant and food service cases doubled during a one week period in August, rising from 10 to 20. Hinton said Public Health believes the virus is moving north as Newport’s cases are dropping and Lincoln City’s cases are rising. Hinton also noted that the hispanic population has accounted for 52 percent of cases in Lincoln County.
“I think that’s where our hard work needs to be directed, our residents that fit that ethnicity category,” Hinton said.
Mayor Dick Anderson also cited some updated statistics, say that through contact tracing, the average number of individuals a positive case came into contact with was six in Newport. In Lincoln City it is 15 individuals per positive case.
“What that means is, for some reason, our folks who are positive (in Lincoln City) do a lot more socializing,” Mayor Anderson said. “Add that to where outbreaks are occurring and it really doesn’t surprise me…
“I don’t think it’s workplace, I think it’s social dinners, socializing, and living conditions. I think there’s a lot more to this story. I’m encouraging us to think that this is not necessarily workplace related.”
Mayor Anderson, instead of reinstating the 24-hour rule, urged the city and the lodging industry to provide additional public service announcements to discourage extra socialization. The council agreed to take that approach, but plans to revisit the the 24-hour hold discussion prior to Lincoln County’s move into Phase 2 of reopening. The discussion will likely occur at the Sept. 24 meeting, according to the council.