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Bend’s summer tourism on the rise, which could lead to more COVID-19 cases

Hotels, airports see increases in visitors, as cases rise as well

(Update: Adding Deschutes County Public Health comment)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The summer months are a popular time of the year for many tourists to visit Bend, but during a pandemic, it could increase the spread of COVID-19. And many visitors are aware of the sensitive situation, and the tricky tradeoffs.

“I completely understand," Laura Nativo, a tourist visiting from California, said Tuesday. "I also come from a tourist-y destination. I live in Malibu. and our beaches have been jam-packed.

"For me, it was, I want to get out and be somewhere safe, but I do think there’s a way for people to be responsible. Whether you’re a resident or tourist, by doing things like wearing a mask or constantly sanitizing your hands, being respectful and mindful of other people’s space, I think we can all cooperate as a community to protect each other's health.”

At least one hotel in Bend has been seeing an increase in business since the phased reopening got underway.

“I wasn’t sure we would reach that occupancy, just because of the pandemic and what’s been happening," said Josh Bressman, the general manager of My Place Hotel. "Right now, though, we are seeing 45-70% occupancy, which is quite higher than it’s been in the past couple of months.”  

Bressman also said he expects to be sold out this holiday weekend.

The Redmond Airport is also expecting an increase in travelers this weekend.

“There’s going to be an uptick, when you compare it to what we’ve seen during the pandemic," said Airport Director Zachary Bass.

Teresa Hanula, who is visiting from Washington D.C., said she come to Bend to enjoy "hiking, running and some biking." Hanula said she understands the possible frustration of residents who feel tourists could bring COVID-19 into the city, but also said tourists can be important to a city's economy.

“If you don’t have tourists at all, then all the businesses are going to start going under, especially approaching tourist season,” Hanula said.

Deschutes County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases recently, including a daily record of 10 new cases on Tuesday.

Heather Kaisner of Deschutes County Public Health noted that the county only receives positive case reports of its own residents, as does each county, but said the picture of where people contracted the virus "has been a mixture."

"Some of the recent cases have been close contacts of known cases that we have been monitoring, or the result of private social gatherings/clusters with a known case," Kasner told NewsChannel 21. "Some have (involved) recent travel, and some have been sporadic/community spread, where we have been unable to trace it back to a known case or cluster."

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.

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