Washingtonians are known to flock to Delaware’s beaches during the summer, but this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced those trips. Now, a new list released by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has some in Delaware’s tourism expressing their concern.
“I was kind of disappointed when I heard about it,” said Dewey Beach Mayor Dale Cooke, who believes beaches are safe and provide ample opportunity for social distancing.
Delaware is on D.C.’s list of 27 states it considers high-risk for coronavirus transmission. Anyone coming into the District from states on the list for anything other than essential business must quarantine for 14 days.
“It is devastating because we are known as the nation’s summer capital — we have many visitors from Washington, D.C.,” said Carol Everhart, president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Everhart said this move will lead to more cancellations at hotels in a region that has been struggling after lockdowns and steep declines in the number of tourists coming in for a beach getaway.
The D.C. list, according to the city, is based on a seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases, and states with 10 or more cases per every 100,000 residents during that time frame will be placed on the list. The list will be updated every two weeks.
“Since Delaware has such a smaller population, it’s been kind of handicapping us with some of the metrics that the states are using with their quarantine criteria,” said Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism. The state has 973,764 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But the different metrics being used from state to state and the various lists are causing confusion for people, Thomas said. “When you’re placed on and off a list, it leads to more confusion for travelers,” he added.
As D.C. adds Delaware to its list, Pennsylvania removed the state from its list, according to Thomas.
He believes the number of hospitalizations is also an important part of the story that is not being factored into the different quarantine lists established by D.C. and other states. As of Monday, the state reported 63 people were hospitalized due to the virus in Delaware.
The loss of tourism dollars in the state due to the virus has been significant. Thomas said hotel room revenue dropped by around 70% in April and May, and was down by nearly 50% in June, compared with last year.
According to Everhart, from January through the first week of July, tourism revenue for just the Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach resort towns is down by just under $206 million, compared with the same period in 2019.
“To recover from that is going to be extremely difficult,” Everhart said.
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