Although there still is a global pandemic, that is not stopping historic Durango from being a destination for tourists from around the country. However, the increasing tourist population does bring concerns about local guidelines regarding COVID-19.
La Plata County has been in COVID-19 level yellow since Feb. 12. This means that high risk populations are advised to stay home, capacity for indoor and outdoor activities are at 50% and masks required to enter buildings in La Plata County, according to San Juan Basin Health’s website.
San Juan Basin Health closely monitors the local activity of Durango, determining how busy it is. SJBH uses aggregate mobility data, which anonymously determines how many phones there are in a particular area and where they came from, Liane Jollon, Public Health Director for San Juan Basin Public Health, said.
What SJBH is looking for is if there is an indication of higher rates of cases, and what they are related to, Jollon said.
The Coronavirus pandemic has not significantly decreased the level of tourism businesses have experienced in Durango, several sources said.
“It was really busy last summer, and it is going to be really busy this summer,” Tyler Mannix, a front desk agent at the Strater Hotel, said.
The only real slow down Mannix saw was the typical offseason during the winter being slower than any normal year, he said.
“When the train is running, we get busy,” Claudia Foley, an employee at the Durango Welcome Center, said.
Jenna Glasgow, a cashier at the Durango Silverton Railroad station said, in the depot, people are good about wearing their masks, but on the train there are some issues.
“When nobody is around, people will pull their masks down,” Glasgow said. “I just try to relate to people wearing their mask, I understand it’s uncomfortable but it is something we have to do.”
Glasgow has experienced only a handful of excuses that come out of left field regarding masks with one man explaining to her, “I can’t wear a mask because it violates my parole.”
If other customers have to wear a mask all day, it is not polite to not wear one, Jianna Giorno, an employee at Durango Bagel, said.
Tourists are not an uncommon sight here in Durango, and many of Durango’s tourists come from Texas, Foley said.
The mask mandate in Texas was lifted on Mar. 2, which erased all Covid-19 restrictions for the state, according to a press release from the office of the Texas Governor, Greg Abbott.
“When people forget to wear their mask, they are typically pretty quick to put one on,” Mannix said.
The food industry in Durango is another place you may find the maskless tourist.
“Out of ten customers, six will walk up without a mask,” Giorno said.
A lot of Durango Bagel’s customers come from the train depot, and according to Giorno,“A lot of them are maskless.
Durango has a major tourist economy, and SJBPH keeps this in mind when thinking about COVID protocols.
“We know that we can balance a tourist economy, with safe public health protocols,” Jollon said, “as long as we’re creative, and don’t get too far ahead of ourselves, we can stay on that track.”