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After telling visitors to stay away last spring break, coastal towns are welcoming people this year

The overall message from the coast: visitors are welcome, the beaches are open, but this pandemic is not over.

SEASIDE, Ore. — Last year around this time Oregon's beaches were shutting down because of COVID. Tourist towns were telling visitors to stay away. This year, things have changed. This year coastal communities are welcoming visitors.

"This is the time of year Seaside is pretty excited about and we expect visitors," said city of Seaside spokesman Jon Rahl. 

With the city of Seaside now in the low-risk category for COVID, planners are anticipating crowds this spring break, and they are ready.

"We're optimistic we're making the next leap into normalcy, but also cautious about it," said Rahl.

"I think we're all pretty excited about spring break, considering last year starting today we were closed for two months," said Jordan Maier. Maier is the general manager at Driftwood Restaurant & Lounge in Cannon Beach.

The restaurant is running on about 40 percent occupancy. But Maier hopes to get it up to the allowed 50 percent by this weekend.

"I plan on extending the parking lot a little bit more," he said. "Hopefully by this weekend, I'll be able to get a few more tables out there."

And those tables are still 6 feet apart. Hand sanitizer stations are spread throughout the restaurant. Maier said coastal businesses are prepared. They just hope visitors are prepared for some limitations.

"That's everyone's concern in the industry," Maier said. "What are we going to be dealing with? Are people going to be less likely to wear masks? Are there going to be more frustrations at your host stand or inside with people not wearing masks?"

The overall message from the coast: visitors are welcome, the beaches are open, but this pandemic is not over.

"We just want to be able to do it in a safe way so that when folks go home, our citizens and residents are safe as well," said Rahl.