Locals concerned massive mountain tourism may spread COVID


BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (KDVR) — For people who call Summit County home, seeing thousands of people flooding small ski resort towns has them worried about the already high COVID levels that are bringing cripple restrictions to local businesses. 

“Mountain was crazy, town was crazy, shops were crazy,” said co-owner of the Gold Pan Saloon in Breckenridge, Chris Butler.

Images on social media show dozens of people crowding the streets of downtown Breckenridge over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. People like Butler who work in the local restaurant industry say many groups from out of town didn’t know the rules, with Summit County in the Red Level for COVID restrictions under the state’s model.

“People are still walking into the restaurant and saying oh we have 10,” Butler said. “Okay… well we’re gonna split you into two tables, which surprises them I guess, and then we tell them we don’t have indoor dining and they’re completely stunned.”

Red Level restrictions require Summit County to shut down indoor dining, but retail and the lodging industry are still able to operate. Members of the service industry have protested this state restriction, feeling like they’re being targeted.

The Problem Solvers dug into the numbers, and did find that indoor dining was the leading cause for outbreaks in Summit County, with eight total.

“I know there’s a bit of an outcry in the community right now that hey if restaurants are closed and can only do to go, why is lodging open?” Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said in an address on Facebook.

“In the end, public health does not believe a lot of the community spread is coming from lodging. There are a lot of people in the community that work in the lodging industry and to displace them like we’ve displaced a lot of people in the restaurant community, we just didn’t feel that was the right thing to do, especially without that scientific data.”

Locals still feel a double standard exists between themselves and the tourists that flood these mountain towns.

“It’s really frustrating seeing large groups of tourists come in, clearly not all from the same household, when we are all under these mandates as locals that we can be fined for not following them,” said local restaurant employee Savannah Wahaus. 

Summit County Health tells the Problem Solvers they haven’t seen any data to suggest visitors are spreading the virus in the high country. It is still early to see if a wave of tourism to mountain towns has impacted COVID numbers in the community from the Thanksgiving weekend.

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