By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
At the peak of the summer tourism season, the City of Bend will once again ask visitors to stay home and hoteliers to back off bookings in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Bend City Council on Wednesday voted to direct City Manager Eric King to issue a new administrative order strongly discouraging visitors.
He issued similar orders in March and extended it in May ahead of Gov. Kate Brown allowing parts of the state to reopen. The orders expired once the area moved into Phase 2 of reopening in June.
COVID cases are increasing in Deschutes County, with the Oregon Health Authority reporting more than 100 new cases here since the end of June.
Tuesday, health officials announced the county’s first COVID-related death, after a 63-year-old man passed away from complications while at St. Charles.
And on Wednesday afternoon county health announced it was investigating an outbreak of at least 20 cases in a long-term care facility in Bend.
The outbreak prompted Mayor Sally Russell to say she planned to discuss with council hours later whether it was time to pass further policies to restrict the spread of COVID.
Councilors spent time discussing the obvious influx of tourists, the uptick in COVID cases and the enforcement of new mask mandates before deciding on a strategy to possibly curb the stream of visitors.
The hope is people across the state and beyond get word that now is not the time to plan your summer vacation to Bend.
Under King’s previous orders:
- Travel away from home for recreational or vacation purposes is strongly discouraged and should be avoided.
- All stays at temporary lodging facilities in Bend are highly discouraged, unless for reasons of health, safety or employment.
- Operators of temporary lodging in Bend are strongly requested to refrain from booking any new reservations for tourist or vacation travel.
City Attorney Mary Winters said language in the new order would be very similar, taking into account the most recent orders from the state related to permitted essential travel.
Councilors Gena Goodman-Campbell, Justin Livingston, Bill Mosely and Russell voted for the new restrictions.
Bruce Abernethy, Barb Campbell and Chris Piper opposed it.
King is to share the order with Visit Bend so the tourism marketing agency can alter its messaging to potential visitors.
Visit Bend had stopped much of its marketing and shifted its messaging earlier in the spring, asking visitors to stay home until it was safe to travel.
Since then, the messaging has expanded somewhat while reminding potential visitors about Oregon’s social distancing and mask rules.
The new order is expected to be ratified August 5th.