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Portlanders head to Vancouver to escape shutdowns


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    VANCOUVER, Washington (KPTV) — Washingtonians have avoided further COVID-19 restrictions, but they aren’t moving any closer to fully reopening either, as Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a “two-week pause” on moving between phases.

It comes as COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations have been on the rise, but related deaths are dropping, and health officials said the state seems to be hitting a plateau when it comes to the ‘fourth wave’ of COVID-19 cases.

It’s a stark contrast to Portland, where Multnomah County is now in an “extreme risk” category, with tight restrictions on business operations and gatherings.

With so much closed in Oregon, Portlanders are now crossing state lines to dine in restaurants and workout at finesses clubs.

Tuesday afternoon, parking lots around the Vancouver Waterfront were packed, with plenty of Oregon license plates to be seen.

Several restaurants told Fox 12 that they’ve had an increase in Portland customers and inquiries about reservations for various parties and celebrations.

“The numbers have increased exponentially,” said Randy Noia, the general manager of WildFin American Grill. “I’m ahead of 2018 and 2019 numbers.”

It’s been a huge boost for business, despite Clark County remaining in phase three of the state’s recovery plan, which limits restaurants to 50 percent capacity.

Noia said WildFin hits the capacity limit nearly every day and have had to turn down inquiries for larger gatherings because the restaurant doesn’t offer private dining rooms.

“We’ve gotten numerous phone calls asking for large parties – rehearsal dinners, bar mitzvas, weddings, graduations from the Portland area — in fear of closing down (there),” Noia said.

Gordon Strutz of Gresham and his wife drove to Vancouver to enjoy an indoor birthday lunch with friends at WildFin.

“We got vaccinated right at the beginning, I’ll go anywhere I want to go,” Strutz said. “I’m 76 years old, how many more years have I got to live?”

Crossing state lines for a meal or even to work out. Large fitness clubs, too, are noticing new faces.

“We have noticed an influx in our traffic in our Vancouver clubs,” said Jen Fox, the district manager for 24 Hour Fitness. “We have two locations and we’ve seen some people coming in from Portland.”

“Even though we are shutdown in Multnomah and Clackamas counties right now, it’s still great that we can take a lot of people if they’re willing to come out to Vancouver, take that short drive. We’re here for them,” Fox said.

As for Inslee’s two-week pause announcement, Noia said he’s grateful Clark County won’t be taking a step backward.

“I’m very relieved that he’s not moving anything for two weeks,” Noia said, adding that it makes sense if the state could be moving toward a downturn in case rates.

“As long as we keep our numbers where they need to be, so they don’t go backwards, it’s going to be a huge summer on the waterfront,” Noia said.

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