A Community Website by Lopez Island
Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back? (Tourism)
Lopez Island
July 26, 2020
Posted by Russel Barsh, Lopez Island

As July comes to an end, we mark a sad milestone: the number of Covid-19 cases in San Juan County has nearly doubled in the four weeks since the Visitors Bureau prematurely declared the islands re-opened to tourism from the mainland. That’s just the number of cases reported by island residents, and does not include the mainlanders that were infected when they crowded our ferries, parks, beaches, and grocery stores. As a matter of simple biology, the evidence is that San Juan County must restrict recreational travel and lodging until new cases decline again.
Our county government nonetheless insists that the flare-up is entirely due to islanders recklessly going to the mainland, and chides us (rather than the tourists) for not staying home in quarantine. This argument neglects key facts. Anyone that has waited in a ferry line since May knows that far more people are coming here from the mainland, than islanders traveling to the mainland. A majority of visitors come from the Seattle-King County metropolitan area where the current Covid-19 case rate is 634 per 100,000, four times the case rate in San Juan County even after the July surge. All other things being equal, encounters between islanders and mainlanders should result in more transmission to islanders, and we should be trying to reduce contacts with mainlanders regardless of which direction they travel. Any difference would have to be due to a difference in the way people interact with each other on the mainland or in the islands.
The county’s argument implies that an islander is more likely to be infected by visiting a friend or relative on the mainland, than by interacting with a stranger who visits the islands. First, it is misleading to assume that most islanders visit the mainland for social/recreational purposes rather than for medical appointments, purchasing supplies they cannot find in the islands, or for business or professional reasons. It also implies that islanders are careless when traveling and do not wear masks, distance, or wash their hands routinely. But are islanders traveling for medical or business reasons less careful than mainlanders vacationing is the islands? I doubt the county has reliable data on this question, but in my recent experience islanders tend to be more careful than our mainland guests.
My laboratory’s field team works on some very popular (and ecologically fragile) public lands where we have been seeing visitor numbers about 50 percent greater than last year; and where despite crowding, barely half the visitors are wearing face coverings. Not only are island residents reluctant to use their own public lands under these circumstances, but the ecological impacts are growing, and tourists that party on our trails and beaches do not spend much money at our local businesses. Islanders lose safe access to our outdoors, face greater infection risk and increased damage to habitats and wildlife, and get hardly any money out of it.
Food and lodging (including year-round food sales to residents, which are not trivial) employ barely 12 percent of working islanders. More islanders are employed in public service, banking, health professions or education (20 percent). Sacrificing islanders’ safety in the interest of unrestricted tourism is not only callous but simply bad economic policy. What makes it worse is attempting to cover it up by pretending that islanders only catch Covid-19 when they are on the mainland.


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Kathryn Tucker: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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It is very sad to me to see so much hostility in this discussion thread. I understand people are scared. But the expression of 'stay away' with such vehemence is shocking. There are many on Lopez who life part of the year on the island and part.... Read all
Deleted by Bob Parrish: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?
Anamo Roloff: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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Caring for Lopez Island Health
The safety of our Lopez Island community is our highest priority. As we deal with the impact of COVID-19, the Lopez Island Chamber of Commerce is encouraging visitors, and people whose primary home is somewhere other.... Read all
Anamo Roloff: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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No, I am not happy with the tourists being here. Usually I am. Usually I enjoy they influx of new faces every year. Not this year. I am not having a normal life here, as I know we are all not. I feel really angry when there are off islanders not.... Read all
Hazel Burns: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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This situation was absolutely predictable. WSF is keeping the islands on the winter schedule, boats are routinely running late - often an hour or two late - or not at all, and the available space is now being filled by tourists. I was stranded and.... Read all
Bob Parrish: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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Thankyou all for these comments.
Jill Rain: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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Re the economic value of tourism: the assumption we hear is that tourism is essential to our economy, but your numbers suggest it is not. I've wondered about that myself, especially given how our demographic skews older, ie 35% in SJC are over 65 vs.... Read all
Adrienne Adams: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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The Health Department's press release last week says "This crisis feels endless and it is hard to maintain so much sacrifice for so long. Preventing a roll-back to previous restrictions requires from all of us a dramatic reset of what.... Read all
Skip Clark: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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Thanks for pointing out the obvious! No need to travel to the mainland they are coming to us, and happily bringing whatever they have with them. The strange position of our county that somehow islanders can keep this virus at bay by their actions alone.... Read all
Richard Strachan: Is everybody HAPPY now that tourists are back?

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Maybe ferry reservations are becoming the new bitcoin.

Last night 7/26 I tried to make a reservation on the 5:20 pm coming back this coming Thursday, 7/30. All reservations for this sailing have been taken as well as all the spots for the 10:20.... Read all