Ocean City’s Covid-19 economic gamble. Did it pay off?

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Good afternoon,

We will know in the coming months if Ocean City’s, MD’s coronavirus economic and public health gamble paid off.

On Monday, it was reported that Worcester County had Maryland’s highest rate of coronavirus cases. While calculations differ, it appears that the rate of positive cases in the county that includes Ocean City is about double the rate of neighboring Sussex County Delaware.

For the most part, the virus has been confined to younger people in the beach area and did not spread to vulnerable populations – yet.One metric, hospital capacity, remains ample on Delmarva.

Last spring, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan pushed for an earlier opening of the beach town. The move was not praised by the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan and by some accounts led to a behind-the-scenes tug of war.

Still, mayors have the power to regulate the boardwalk and other areas.

Meehan’s move did not make mayors of Delaware beach towns or Gov. John Carney happy, especially after an outbreak occurred in coastal Sussex following senior week. Covid-19 spread to the hospitality community and lifeguards.

Meehan did tighten things when the boardwalk became crowded and Covid-19 cases increased. Masks are required on the boardwalk with the mayor recently extended the emergency face-covering order for another month.

To the north, Sussex County’s rate of positive cases has stabilized.

One piece of good news came over the weekend came when David Tam, the new CEO of Beebe Healthcare, noted in a social media post that its Lewes hospital had no Covid-19 patients for the first time since the pandemic took hold.

The California physician and retired Naval officer took the helm of Beebe ahead of schedule, driving across cross-country with U-Haul trailer in tow.

Sussex and the peninsula would go on to face a Covid-19 crisis in the poultry processing industry. Deaths were relatively rare (by one account 17 in an industry that employs 20,000) although the virus did make its way into nursing homes and contributed to many deaths among the medically fragile.

In the coming months, we should get more info on tourism revenues in the Ocean City area and Coastal Sussex.

Getting an apples-to-apples comparison will be difficult since Delaware does not charge sales or food and beverage taxes. We do know that hotel room tax revenues are down sharply in Delaware.

If Ocean City fared better, it would bolster arguments of those who believe Delaware kept too many restrictions in place. –Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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