Florence: Once a vibrant fishing destination, sudden Ghost Town

Bay Street is the heart of Florence’s tourist district. It was approaching noon when this image was captured. The Beachcomber is a popular stop for many and a popular hangout for locals. Frank Armendariz/The Chronicle

FLORENCE – The first cases of Coronavirus in Lane County and the first recorded fatality has sent shockwaves through our communities.
In an effort to minimize the advance of the virus through ”social spreading” Gov. Kate Brown made the decision to close all schools statewide. Gatherings have been limited to fewer than 10 people, libraries have closed and, when possible, people have been asked to work from home.
Then on March 16, Gov. Brown extended those closures and made the extraordinary decision to include all of the state’s restaurants, bars and other sit-down eateries, at least into April.
In certain cases, restaurants have been allowed to continue to provide takeout and delivery services, however with smaller staffing numbers.
This mid-Oregon coastal fishing community is dominated and driven by the services sector, including food, hotel, fishing guides, etc.
All of those people are unemployed today. Three Rivers Casino, Florence’s largest employer, suspended its entire operations last Friday, adding a large group of people, with rather unique skills, to a growing list of the unemployed.
We have yet to fully understand the larger effect of essentially laying off thousands and thousands of food-service workers, wait staff and bartenders across the state.
For a small resort town like Florence the obvious impacts on the local economy have been swift, immediate and harsh.
Frank Armendariz is a veteran rafting and fishing guide along the Willamette and McKenzie rivers. He lives in Florence.



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