Worries are already starting to mount locally among some people about the impact the coronavirus might have on Cody and summer tourism.
Chris Lam, manager of Cody Hong Kong Restaurant, said usually by this time of the year he has received many calls from tour companies scheduling summer visits to his restaurant, so he can know ahead to prepare with quantities of food, and so his customers can find how much they will be spending.
But this year so far, there’s been nothing.
“We usually have a good schedule before February,” he said. “I guess they’re waiting until the last minute.”
Lam said about half his summer business comes from tour bus travelers. He said one company he has been working with for 15 years still has not reached out to him.
Typically, these operations are U.S.-based, but cater to tourists from Asia and Europe, usually filled with 35-40 people, but sometimes more.
Lam said the vast majority of the Asian contingency comprising these groups is usually made up by Thai and Japanese visitors. He said Chinese visitors often travel on their own, and make up about 15% of his summer business. Another 15% of tourists traveling on their own also come to his business, with locals making up the last 20% of his summer clientele.
There have been more than 76,900 diagnosed cases of coronavirus in China and in Japan more than 800. Europe has had around 200 cases.
At this point Lam said he is expecting a slow start to the summer tourist season but is still holding out hope for a strong late summer.
“I don’t think we’ll have much early summer business,” he said. “It takes time to get a visa. You can’t wake up and say, ‘I want to go (to the United States) next week.’”
Lam was born in Hong Kong but has been in Cody for more than 20 years. He said it has been many years since he has seen his homeland.
“It’s very expensive, $10,000 trip,” he said.
Shufang Wang, a manager at Chinatown Buffet, isn’t as concerned as Lam. She said the majority of her summer customers are Chinese Americans traveling on their own.
Chinatown Buffet does typically receive 6-9 tour bus visits per week from a few different companies but she said these businesses don’t typically notify her their plans until closer to the summer season, so she doesn’t know what to expect.
“We just don’t know,” Wang said.
Mike Darby, manager of the Irma Hotel and treasurer for the Park County Travel Council, said he has seen no drop-off in reservations at his hotel and is unsure how overall tourism numbers will be affected.
“For those people who pre-plan far in advance, they’ll probably have second thoughts about traveling to the United States,” he said.
Darby said the Irma receives many international guests, mostly Europeans.
Over the past week U.S. and international stock markets have plummeted in response to the virus. Lisa Constantine, visitors service manager for Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, said a wavering economy and upcoming presidential election could have a negative effect on summer tourism.
“Election years affect the way people travel,” Constantine said. “It will be very interesting to have this conversation in October.”
Disease at your
According to the World Health Organization, common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.
Regularly washing your hands, avoiding rubbing your face and hands, wearing a face mask, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, and avoiding those who show signs of respiratory illness are ways people can reduce their risk of contracting the disease.
On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control said people should prepare for the possibility that the coronavirus may spread to communities throughout the U.S.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.
Bill Crampton, public health nurse for Park County, said he has already been discussing plans with the Wyoming Department of Health, Cody Regional Health and other agencies about what will take place if the virus comes here.
“We’ve been having conversations about our standard pandemic flu plans,” he said.
Crampton said if the coronavirus does make it to Wyoming or the immediate region, those with weak immune systems should try to isolate themselves.
“Stay at home if possible,” he said.
Crampton said the county doesn’t have the resources to have “law enforcement in biohazard suits walking down the street” or to set up a designated quarantine location. However, while he said any infected locals could stay at home, he will have to pursue a shelter location for any infected tourists.
“We can’t have them staying there and infecting the other guests,” he said.
In total, the coronavirus has infected more than 78,800 people and killed 2,592 worldwide.
Although its growth is slowing since first discovered, the coronavirus is spreading throughout the world, with at least 57 people in the United States now affected. The closest location of coronavirus victims to Cody are 15 people quarantined in Omaha, Neb., at Nebraska Medicine after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan.
A fake news report had claimed eight people in Billings tested positive for the virus, but this report was quickly deemed false.
All of the infected cases have been linked to overseas travel.
On Feb. 20, the State Department posted an advisory urging against traveling by cruise ship to or within Asia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising against all non-essential travel to China and South Korea, and advising people to reconsider travel to Japan, Italy and Iran.
For those who want to help out with efforts locally if a contagion arrives or for any other emergency or disaster, Crampton recommends joining the Community Emergency Response Team headed by Director of Homeland Security Jack Tatum.
“The community needs to be pulling together and taking care of each other,” Crampton said.
For more information on CERT check out parkcounty.us/OHS/cert.html.