Arizona health officials are seeing an upward trend of new coronavirus cases this month, including hundreds of new cases reported in Mohave County.
The county reported 156 new cases and one death on Thursday, with 60 of those cases in Lake Havasu City.
A “second wave” may be looming – and if it comes, the impact on Lake Havasu City’s hospitality industry could be devastating.
After shutdowns ordered by Gov. Ducey during the onset of the pandemic, Havasu’s tourism revenues fell by more than half, according to GoLakeHavasu President Terence Concannon. Now, confirmed cases of coronavirus are approaching their highest levels since early August. Although Ducey has made no indication that future shutdowns could be pending, the rising case numbers are cause for concern among Concannon and other tourism officials.
New reported cases have followed a national upward trend, with recent spikes throughout Arizona. The number of confirmed cases in Mohave County alone has risen sharply since early September, according to new data from the Arizona Department of Health Services. During first week of September, only 18 cases were reported per 100,000 Mohave County residents. According to state health officials, that number has increased almost eightfold as of early November, with 152 reported cases per 100,000 Mohave County residents.
During the first two weeks of November alone, almost 450 new coronavirus cases were reported in Mohave County.
“A second wave of coronavirus would have a significant negative impact on our lodging and food-and-beverage industries,” Concannon said. “Many of our hotels and restaurants were able to make back the lost (in March and April), but recovery from a second wave this winter will be more difficult and will take much longer.”
According to Concannon, Havasu’s hospitality industry may best survive the pandemic by remaining flexible, and following CDC guidelines to mitigate the potential impact of the virus. With strong adherence to health and safety precautions, and limiting the number of guests at Havasu’s hotels, Concannon says it won’t be easy – but it will be necessary to survive if a second wave does occur.
Lake Havasu Hospitality Association President Matt Brewster says members of Havasu’s hospitality industry have taken notice of the rising number of cases. As the director of resort services and business development at the London Bridge Resort, he’s well familiar with the impact the virus had, and could still have on the industry.
“I can’t overstate the impact it had on us,” Brewster said. “With so many furloughs, we have no desire to go back to that. We’re tasked not only making sure guests feel safe, but that they are safe. And with our staff working with so many people from out of town, we have to be conscientious of our efforts to keep them safe as well.”
Eight months ago, layoffs and furloughs throughout Havasu’s tourism industry resulted in hundreds of jobs lost for hospitality workers as the coronavirus pandemic swept throughout Arizona. According to Brewster, hospitality officials raised about $65,000 in food vouchers to sustain workers until the initial shutdowns were over. Brewster says that may not be possible a second time.
“The first round of coronavirus, and the governor’s shutdowns, was devastating for us,” Brewster said. “We don’t want it to happen again – and we can’t afford to do it again … people are hyper-aware of the recent spike in cases. Now it’s time to batten down the hatches and tighten the reins where we could do better.”
Interestingly, local tourism taxes reflect a surge of visitorship in Lake Havasu City this summer. The city’s 3% bed tax on hotels and motels brought in nearly $400,000 during the first two months of the fiscal year, up 52 percent from the same period the year before.
Brewster was confident that Havasu’s hospitality industry is doing all it can to keep guests safe and prevent a second wave from occurring.
“I can’t predict whether or not it will happen, but I’m confident we’re doing all the right things to prevent it from happening,” Brewster said. “If a second wave does happen, it won’t happen because of us.”
Heat Hotel General Manager Tory Criss says the impact of the virus earlier this year was substantial. The Heat, which lies directly adjacent to the London Bridge, has long been a popular venue for visitors to Havasu, but early shutdowns were a blow to not just the Heat, but Havasu’s entire tourism industry.
“We had a lot of layoffs and furloughs,” Criss said this week. “We had a smaller staff during the summer, but we managed to keep business steady.”
Criss says that lockdowns in California ultimately brought more California business to Lake Havasu City. If that happens again, the Heat is ready for them – but that means hospitality employees will have to think on their feet.
“We’ve had to be ready to change our plans from day to day,” Criss said. “I think we’re ready, and more prepared mentally if a second wave comes.”