EDITOR, Daily News:
The influx of nearly a million and a half visitors, in normal circumstances, is an economic boom to Ketchikan. We get to show off our beautiful state, meet and chat up some appreciative guests while racking up $250 million in benefits to the community. We do need and depend on the financial support of the tourist industry which has become one of our greatest sources of income. Ketchikan residents are willing to work with the frustration of the crowded waterfront, streets and sidewalks; shops that are shut up tight in the off season, strained infrastructure (emergency, health, police, public works) in exchange for the significant financial benefit gained from the tourist dollars. However, these are not normal circumstances!
There are very good reasons that the CDC has recommended against cruise ship travel at this time. Thousands of people sharing a relatively small space and breathing the same air through ship-wide ventilation systems are at increased risk of being exposed and contracting COVID-19 should any of the passengers aboard have the virus. When those passengers and crew come ashore; when they go fishing and take tours (with local guides and drivers), gather shoulder-to-shoulder in the shops, museums and visitor center, and congregate on our crowded sidewalks, it is likely Ketchikan residents will have even greater exposure to COVID-19. There is no such thing as "social distancing" when playing host to many thousands of visitors each day.
We know the local retail and hospitality businesses will be hit hard, very hard, as a result of canceled cruise ship visits (frankly, we are less sympathetic towards the "foreign-owned" businesses as they have deeper pockets). We know our city and borough government will lose substantial revenue, as well. However, we also believe we, the residents of Ketchikan, value the health and possibly the very lives of the folks who live here and we are (or should be) willing to do whatever it takes to safeguard the health of our community.
Ketchikan is a small town — a friendly town, and, we hope, a considerate town. And now we are a town with the first confirmed case of COVID-19. Now all of us (including the 15% of Ketchikan residents who are over the age of 65 and those with impaired immune systems who are particularly at risk) are depending on friends, co-workers and neighbors to observe the guidelines for preventing infection as clearly outlined by CDC and H&SS. It will be a challenge.
Please, let's not add to the risk and complicate our response to COVID-19 in Ketchikan by inviting thousands upon thousands of daily visitors into our community at this time!
ANITA AND KEN DUCKETT