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NEWPORT — The Newport City Council met by teleconference at noon on Monday, March 23, and City Manager Spencer Nebel noted that, in the midst of reacting to the crisis, it is important to keep an eye on recovering from the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy.
Councilor Dietmar Goebel said, “If this goes on for more than a couple months, I think we’re going to see some businesses not come back from the crisis. We want people to be here. We love tourists, (but) I think that in the immediate future, we have a crisis that we need to get over.”
Nebel said, “The hope is that people will do a better job of listening to the governor’s theme that staying home saves lives, and with the closure of things that people want to come to, I think that will stop some of this traffic coming forward.”
The city council weighed supporting the countywide, unprecedented closure of campgrounds, short-term rentals and allowing only essential stays in local hotels and motels after many visitors made their way to Lincoln County at the beginning of what would have been spring break over the weekend.
“I think this moves in a direction that allows essential business to continue, which isn’t necessarily the same concern that other communities may have,” Nebel said of the order that was unanimously approved and executed by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, as well as the cities of Depoe Bay, Newport, Lincoln City, Toledo, Siletz, Waldport and Yachats.
“We have a lot of business use of hotels for essential things that are still ongoing. Closure of those facilities would be problematic,” Nebel noted.
Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer reported that State Rep. David Gomberg was present at a meeting that morning and related state efforts underway.
“They’re trying to relax some of the unemployment-related issues … trying to streamline the child care restrictions,” Sawyer told the council. “They’ve prohibited evictions for the next 90 days. The state will be meeting in special session here pretty soon to discuss some of the things the state can do to make it easier for folks here in Newport.”
Goebel said, “We’re going to do everything we can to keep businesses viable and to keep people coming to our community.”
Nebel added, “This has changed everything when it comes to financial issues. It’s not going to be a very pleasant period of time as we make some difficult decisions in the coming months on how we recover from the COVID-19. Just in a week, the world changed, and our county changed overnight. And that’s going to continue until there’s some direction on how this COVID-19 virus is responding to the steps that are in place.”
Sawyer said, “I think we need to be prepared for more darker days to come.” He asked that people look out for their neighbor and resist the impulse to hoard supplies.