Now That We’re Starting To Relax Restrictions, Can We Relax?

Photo of Signal Peak Trails

OK, so our lodges get to open for business on May 15. That seems like a fake date to me, as homeowners and residents will be the only ones allowed to rent a room then.

On May 27, assuming we keep the plague down and people can travel to the valley, lodging properties can open in earnest.

There’s a broad misunderstanding that Gunnison Health dictates the rules for our valley’s openings. We are largely constrained by our governor, who sets the rules. We can adopt more strict rules, though for the most part we’ve declined to do that. Counties can request variances, but right now there is not a great system in place for that. So, we are going, mostly, with the flow.

Now that we’re beginning to relax business rules, can we relax? It would seem not. Gunnison County has 945 positives per 100,000 people, and tests here are tough to come by. I could find only two counties in the state, El Paso and Eagle, with a higher rate of positives per population. We are triple the rate of Pitkin, San Miguel and Chaffee, according to USAfacts.org.

May is going to be a tourism bust for our valley. Painful, but it is our No. 12 tourism month of the year. Last year’s lodging revenues for May were $1.75 million, representing only 3% of annual revenues. If we have to lose another month of business, May’s the month to lose. July is coming. Last year July lodging revenues were $7.73 million, 13% of annual lodging revenues, and 4.5X the size of May.

A fast opening does not necessarily equate to the best economic outcome. In 1918 people relaxed and the second spike of the plague was bigger than the first. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around a second spike being inevitable, but history says it is. We sure don’t want that second spike to hit in July, or on either side of July. Let it hit in November if it has to come at all, November being next to May our smallest lodging month.

So we can’t relax.

There is still a sentiment in the valley and our country that the current plague is similar to a rough flu season. Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory’s Ian Billick sent me a piece from Scientific American. The author, a Harvard physician, argues persuasively that because the CDC estimates flu deaths and we are currently measuring COVID-19 deaths, the comparison is apples and oranges. The author says he’s never seen a flu death. He estimates that actual deaths from flu in the U.S. fall between 2,500 and 15,600 annually. Consequently, the COVID-19, at the very least, is 10X more-deadly than the flu. (Faust, 4/28/20)

There’s still a reason for us all to act with an abundance of caution even as we reopen. The valley can’t afford to trade a slightly-open May with a resurgence of the virus in June and a second clampdown in July. That would be, truly, the worst-case scenario.

-John Norton, Executive Director, Tourism and Prosperity Partnership

Author: John Norton

7 Responses to Now That We’re Starting To Relax Restrictions, Can We Relax?

  1. So, now it’s May 11. Are second home owners and summer campers welcome in Gunnison? I saw the post from mid-April indicating second home owners were not welcome back. Just wondering and trying to make plans. We are not home owners but are planning to come to Gunnison in an RV

    • Hi Carol, second homeowners are allowed to return. They are currently being asked to isolate and quarantine for 7 days upon arrival. Summer campers are not allowed back yet, but we are hoping that they will be on May 27th.

  2. My family plans on visiting in July for the Wildflower Fest. With COVID present this year, Will there be any Farmer’s Markets in the area?

  3. Hi there! My husband and I are, as responsibly as we can, planning a camping trip to Oh Be Joyful the first week of June (~6th-12th). While we plan to spend our time at our site, we’re coming from TX and will need to buy some food locally before heading to the grounds.

    Should we expect limited store hours in Gunnison or Crested Butte? Of course, we’d love to support locally owned smaller businesses during this time if we can. While donning a mask of course 🙂 Any insight would be appreciated!

    • Hi, Natalie. The markets for groceries here in the Gunnison Valley have been keeping normal hours. Masks are encouraged. Safe travels!

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