Rumors that Wallowa County is being flooded with visitors fleeing COVID-19 outbreaks in more populous areas appear to be just that — rumors that confirm social media is not the best place to get your news.
Several motels and RV parks in the upper Wallowa valley contacted said they have either fewer bookings than normal or at least no such hordes as claimed by social media alarmists.
“We haven’t had that experience of people trying to escape Portlandia,” said the manager of Mountain View Motel and RV Park at Joseph.
The manager, who declined to be identified, said bookings at his establishment are about typical for this time of year.
“If this is a real concern, why don’t we just blockade the county,” he joked.
Spokesmen at Enterprise motels, the Wilderness Inn and the Ponderosa Motel, confirmed that.
Jaden Hazzard, general manager at the Wilderness Inn, said that establishment has fewer than normal bookings.
Kelly Noble, manager at the Ponderosa Motel, said the few customers they have are families taking advantage of school closures to break free of being cooped up at home.
“They decided to take the time with their families and go hiking,” Noble said.
She said her customers aren’t taking the so-called coronavirus flight too seriously.
“Folks who are traveling think it’s somewhat of a joke,” she said. “They’re just bonding as a family.”
Noble said the Ponderosa staff has strict protocols in place to do their best to prevent the spread of any contamination. She said when a customer leaves a room, they air it out for three hours before even entering. Then they use a disinfectant spray similar to that which hospitals use to kill both airborne and surface germs. They also use a hospital-grade sanitation procedure for laundry, she said.
Noble said she believes those at highest risk of infection — particularly the elderly — are generally staying home.
“For those outside of that zone, for them, it’s just getting back into the realness of family and what that means,” she said.
Todd Morrow, owner of the Log House RV Park and Campground — Enterprise’s lone RV park — said he, too, has seen no evidence of people fleeing coronavirus. He said his bookings are down considerably from previous years and the few customers he does have are locals who regularly book either short or long terms.
Raylene O’Connor, co-owner with husband Mike of the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast in Joseph, said their four-room B&B is empty and they’ve blocked their online booking system until early April.
“We’ve pretty much closed because of the coronavirus,” she said.
Marcy Hamilton, owner of 5 Peaks RV Park in Joseph, said that although her park is empty right now, she’s expecting things to pick up soon. She has just a couple reservations booked for the middle of April and more for May.
But she’s noting that the closure of state and federal campgrounds may be a mixed blessing for private parks.
“I would imagine that those of us in the county are going to pick up with full-time RV’ers because, after all, where are they going to go?” she asked. “Unless we’re mandated that we can’t take them, I’m going to take them because I need the money and they need a place.”
But this begs more questions: Money changing hands and social distancing.
“We’ll have to wear gloves handling money, I guess,” she said.