Whitefish Chamber Friday Update
July 3, 2020
Happy Independence Day!
In this issue
  • City prepares to take a 'hard line' on face mask use
  • Survey Says ... Summer reservations down drastically from 2019
  • Montana Chamber's annual Economic Update set for July 30
  • Free COVID testing available for front-line tourism industry workers
City considers mask-wearing resolution Monday night
To mask, or not to mask ...
that is the question!

     With COVID-19 infection rates on the rise in Montana and across the country, the Whitefish City Council on Monday will consider passage of a Resolution establishing guidelines for the use of face masks or coverings that "must be followed" by employees -- and the public -- in high-traffic business and public spaces.

     The proposed Resolution calls for "all individuals" to wear face masks i ndoors in businesses or other public settings, and outdoors i n City parks and on City sidewalks, shared-use paths and right-of-way.  Business are directed to provide masks to employees and require their use in the workplace, and to encourage patrons to wear face coverings by prominently posting signs suggesting the same.

     Those who are exempt from the proposed Resolution include:
  • Kids under the age of six,
  • Folks who have a mental/physical condition that precludes them from wearing a mask,
  • Workers in jobs where face coverings are "not compatible" with the duties of the profession,
  • Workers who don't have contact with the public and can maintain social distancing from co-workers, and
  • Patrons seated at a bar or restaurant while eating or drinking.
Not mandatory for now, but all that could change
     Mayor John Muhlfeld -- at a workshop held Wednesday with local business owners and City officials -- said that the Resolution will "strongly encourage" mask wearing by workers and the public, but stops short of legally requiring their use.

     "We want to strongly encourage mask wearing by business owners, their employees and our visitors," Muhlfeld said, "and hope that people do the right thing.  It wouldn't be enforceable at this point, but if the Council feels the guidelines aren't being followed, we could pass an Ordinance making it mandatory" and establishing penalties for non-compliance.

Chamber Board supports the Resolution ... what do you think?
     The Whitefish Chamber's Board of Directors this morning voted unanimously to support the Resolution encouraging mask use in high-traffic businesses and public areas, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in our community and avoid the possibility of going back to Phase 1 restrictions, which essentially killed the tourism trade for the better part of three months.

     "We can't afford to move backward," Chamber Executive Director Kevin Gartland said, "but we all realize that we need to move forward carefully.  The vast majority of our local businesses have already taken significant steps to protect their employees and the public; hopefully this Resolution will bring the rest on-board ... and our visitors as well.

     The Whitefish City Council wants your input on this important issue, and time is of the essence.   CLICK HERE to read the text of the Resolution that will considered by the City Council at its Monday night meeting, and email your comments to City Clerk Michelle Howke at mhowke@cityofwhitefish.org no later than 4 p.m. on Monday July 6 to make sure your opinion will be considered by the Council.
Survey shows most lodgers off by 50% or more in June 
Summer lodging off to a slow start;
July/August reservations slightly better

     As most expected, the summer tourist season in Whitefish is off to a slow start in 2020, as Glacier Park's "limited" opening, the closure of the Canadian border, drastically-reduced airline service -- and COVID-19 -- have combined to knock our tourism-based economy for a loop.

     That's the bad news.  The good news is ... things are looking up!  According to a survey of local lodging properties conducted last week by the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, occupancy rates in June were down at least 25-50% across the board, with more than a third of respondents reporting they were down by 75% or more last month.

      The outlook is far better for July, with only a quarter of those responding that reservations were down 50-75%, and the rest down anywhere from 0-50%.  August's numbers are similar, with 46% reporting that reservations are down between 25-50%, and nearly a quarter of respondents are down by less than 25% from 2019.

     For more information,  CLICK HERE to check out the full Summer Lodging Survey and its key findings.
Annual Montana Chamber event set for July 30
'Economic Update' to focus  on COVID's effect
on our local, state and national economies

      Across the globe, businesses today are faced with uncertainty, creating critical challenges. More than 100,000 American small businesses have already closed their doors permanently as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and an estimated 7.5 million more are at risk of permanent closure. 
     Each year the Montana Chamber Foundation sponsors its Economic Update Series, which this year bears the appropriate title: "What Now; What's Next?"  Join the Montana Chamber on July 30 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kalispell to hear their mid-year economic projections for our local, state and national economies, and for some expert insight into what's on the horizon -- recession or recovery.

     For more information or to reserve your seat for the July 30 luncheon, CLICK HERE.
Thursdays and Fridays at WHS parking lot
County launches free COVID-19 testing
for tourism (and other) front-line workers

     A free COVID-19 testing site has been established in Whitefish for local workers who come into frequent contact with visitors and the public, but who are not currently exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

     The Community Snapshot Testing Site operates in the Whitefish High School parking lot on Thursday afternoons from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m., and on Friday mornings from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.  The testing done at the site is designed to provide an "early warning" of potential virus outbreaks in Whitefish.

     While the site is designed for front-line workers who interact with the public frequently, anyone who is interested in being tested is welcomed.  Individuals who have symptoms will be referred to their regular healthcare provider or other resources for symptomatic testing.

      CLICK HERE to read a letter to Whitefish business owners, managers and employees from the City of Whitefish, explaining the Community Snapshot Testing Program.
Whitefish Chamber of Commerce | P.O. Box 1120, 505 E. Second Street
Whitefish, MT 59937 | (406) 862-3501 |   whitefishchamber.org