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July 4 brings wave of tourism

Lake Placid’s Main Street is seen here Tuesday afternoon. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — This region saw heavy tourism over the Fourth of July weekend, with the rush of visitors standing in stark contrast to the last four months of few tourists visiting this area amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ongoing closure of the U.S.-Canada border essentially cut off Canadian visitors’ access to the Adirondacks, but nevertheless, many trailhead parking lots were overflowing over the holiday weekend.

The Fourth of July weekend is usually one of the busiest weekends of the season for tourism here.

State Department of Environmental Conservation’s forest rangers were kept busy, responding to two rescues and one search in the High Peaks Wilderness, and one rescue in the Taylor Pond Wild Forest over the weekend, according to DEC spokesman David Winchell. Rangers also ticketed two hikers for camping above 4,000 feet in elevation, having a campfire in the eastern High Peaks Wilderness and not using a bear-resistant canister, he said.

On state Route 73, where the DEC imposed a roadside parking ban along a 4-mile stretch last year, forest rangers issued 20 parking tickets for vehicles parked illegally.

Lake Placid’s Main Street was also packed as early as Friday afternoon, with many pedestrians opting not to wear masks while walking outdoors — something village officials expressed concern about at the last Board of Trustees meeting in June.

Some Tri-Lakes area boat launches also saw increased use.

Although occupancy tax figures aren’t in yet — which would give a sense of how many hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, hostel and Airbnb rooms were booked — Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism Director of Marketing Michelle Clement said feedback from the owners of lodging properties indicate that bookings were strong.

ROOST recently graduated from its “Community Jumpstart” phase of marketing, which was designed to entice visitors from within the North Country region to visit Lake Placid and other towns and villages that the office has contracts with. Clement said the office is now targeting a broader audience with “travel-based messaging that extends out the Albany/Schenectady/Troy, Utica, and Syracuse DMAs (Designated Marketing Areas).”

By the numbers

Just before the holiday weekend, on July 1, Essex County Health Department Public Information Officer Andrea Whitmarsh said the steady trickle of tourists hadn’t contributed to the number of local COVID-19 cases yet.

“We have had cases related to travel, but it’s mostly been limited to Essex County residents traveling to other areas and then coming back to their homes here,” she said. “These areas include NYC, other states within the U.S. and international locations.” At the time, there were zero active cases of COVID-19 in the county.

There were four active cases reported in Essex County as of Tuesday, three more than this past Thursday, before the Fourth of July weekend and before a second Ward Lumber employee tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Wednesday, there were two active cases of COVID-19 reported in Franklin County, three fewer than this past Thursday.

But the impact of Fourth of July tourism on local COVID-19 cases isn’t clear yet.

“It is difficult to determine as of yet if there is an uptick due to tourism,” Franklin County manager Donna Kissane said Wednesday.

People typically begin to experience respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 an average of five to six days after exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though some people have started experiencing symptoms as soon as two days afterward or as long as 14 days after they’re exposed to the coronavirus.

On top of that delay, Kissane said COVID-19 test results typically take between three to seven days to process.

“If people wear masks when closer than 6 feet if they do not reside in the same household, and follow the best practices of hand washing, avoid face touching, sanitizing hands and surfaces, this should help significantly in reducing the risk of infection and spread of the virus,” Kissane said.

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