Coastal towns pass new order to keep tourists out

Coronavirus

Both Seaside and Warrenton declared a state of emergency over the weekend

This article was updated to correct an error in the reporting on the ordinance Lincoln County officials considered during a Monday evening meeting.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Health officials agree the most effective way to flatten the curve of the spread of the coronavirus is to simply stay home. However, beautiful weather this past weekend left many with cabin fever, and crowds flocked to the coast as a result.

The empty streets of Seaside. March 23, 2020 (Courtesy Seaside City Manager Jon Rahl)

The crowds at Seaside have subsided by Monday compared to this weekend, as evident by photos provided by the town’s Assistant City Manager Jon Rahl. On Saturday and Sunday, Highway 26, the road from Portland to Seaside, was bumper to bumper with traffic. Large groups of up to 30 people ignored social distancing rules, according to Henry Balensifer, the mayor of Warrenton. There were similar crowds in Seaside.

“There was traffic for a good 45-50 miles—I mean bumper to bumper on Highway 26. Everybody was pouring in,” said Rahl. “That started on Friday night, it really hit home on Saturday.”

By Saturday evening, Seaside had declared a state of emergency due to the crowds, and concerns about how that would contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We have a really tight-knit community in terms of the people who live here and reside year-round,” said Rahl. “It’s going to be tough, but I’m optimistic that we can weather this and we will weather this—it’s just going to be tough, no doubt about that.”

Closing up shop was a difficult decision, especially for coastal communities that rely heavily on tourists, however, right now those same tourists pose a threat to the health of those who reside there.

“It’s kind of scary, in some sense it feels like a ghost town,” said Rahl. “I’ve been here 10 years now and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Continuing Coverage: the Coronavirus

The empty streets of Seaside. March 23, 2020 (Courtesy Seaside City Manager Jon Rahl)

Earlier on Saturday, the City of Warrenton held an emergency meeting to pass similar action. A state of emergency was declared and a resolution was passed to evict all tourists, ordered to vacate within 24 hours.

The heavy weekend crowds now have government leaders in Lincoln County taking action. Lincoln County officials and mayors met for a Monday evening meeting where they discussed an ordinance to temporarily prohibit the use of short-term rentals until the state of emergency is lifted. Shortly after 9 p.m., the ordinance passed with majority support. The ordinance specifically suspends short-term vacation rentals of less than 30 days—long-term residents are allowed to stay.

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