[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff:]

Wear a Mask: We Can’t Afford to Go Back

Because our region encompasses Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, our local economy heavily relies on tourism to the area. As the president and CEO of the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority, I have seen the devastating effect the pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home orders have had on our local hospitality- and travel-related businesses and the greater economy.

I implore you to wear a mask in public spaces to help ensure that our local economy stays open and can continue to grow.

In March, when the travel industry came to a virtual standstill, our local restaurants, hotels, retail outlets and attractions faced many heart-wrenching decisions on how to cut costs to stay in business. Almost all of these businesses reduced their hours or closed their doors entirely; thousands of employees were furloughed or laid off, and many of those employees are still out of work. By April, unemployment in Seattle Southside rose to a record 14.5%, and payrolls dropped by an unprecedented $20.5 million.

However, as King County progressed to Phase 2 of the Safe Start approach to reopening the economy, many of our restaurants, hotels, retail outlets and attractions began to reopen at a limited capacity. It seemed that the worst was behind us.

Unfortunately, with state and national cases reaching new highs, it appears that we could be heading toward a new round of business closures and mandates. That is, unless we come together and agree to wear masks in public spaces, respect social distancing guidelines and do our part to keep each other safe and healthy.

After countless conversations with hoteliers and community business owners, I cannot emphasize enough how detrimental a second round of closures would be to our local economy. Many of these businesses struggled to make it through the initial closure; a regression and second closure might be permanent. These businesses have done their part to implement extensive new safety measures, from plexiglass at registers or between tables to newly installed sanitizing stations throughout the establishment to contactless orders and deliveries.

Now, it is up to all of us to show that we can continue to go out, live our lives and support these businesses while responsibly wearing our masks.

So, on behalf of the hospitality and tourism communities of SeaTac, Tukwila and Des Moines, please continue to support our businesses, be safe, and be kind by wearing a mask when you go out!

– Katherine Kertzman
President and CEO of the Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority

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