The city of Bend Friday issued an administrative order looking to discourage tourist travel throughout the summer amid an increasing number of coronavirus cases in Oregon.
The order, issued by City Manager Eric King by direction of the Bend City Council, strongly discourages recreational travel to Bend until Sept. 7. It also requests operators of hotels and other lodging facilities to refrain from booking any new tourism or vacation-related reservations.
“We are very concerned and need to take care of our population first and keep our businesses open, and part of that means slowing down and moving back the number of cases of this very contagious virus in our community,” Bend Mayor Sally Russell told OPB.
The order does not apply to work-related or other essential travel, or to reservations for stays longer than 30 days. It also doesn’t apply to residential stays for people experiencing homelessness who are booked in local lodgings with a voucher or through another program.
“This was a really tough decision for council,” Russell said. She said the city’s transient room tax, paid by people staying in overnight lodging, is an important addition to Bend’s economy.
“This is something that we had debated and thought about in different ways overtime,” Russell said. “Oregon and Bend, for a long time, had very few of any cases for weeks and weeks, so we were at a very steady level. It has now changed.”
Deschutes County has had 339 known coronavirus cases as of Saturday, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Russell said she's worried about Bend’s economy as a result of this order, but her bigger fear is doing nothing.
“If we can keep our community healthy, we have a better chance of getting our schools opened in some form and getting our kids back to school in the fall. We have a better chance of keeping our service-related sector healthy so they can continue doing the work they’re doing to serve our community,” Russell said.
The order is related to the Oregon Health Authority’s advisories to avoid recreational travel and overnight trips across the state, she said.
Bend’s administrative order does not have an enforcement mechanism associated with it, but rather is advisory and is a request, Russell said.
"Everything is on the table,” she said, noting that the Bend City Council is considering a “range of COVID-19-related policies.” The administrative order is effective immediately, and City Council plans to ratify it at its meeting next week.