Stickers on the floor direct one-way traffic. Plexiglass partitions separate people at checkout counters. Dining rooms feature sparse table layouts. Workers and many customers are wearing masks. Though the optics are strange, Park City businesses are cautiously opening their doors as Summit County, one of the earliest hotspots for novel coronavirus infections in Utah, begins to ease restrictions in response to the COVID-19 threat being downgraded to the moderate.
There’s still an eerie calm throughout town, and the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding Park City’s “reopening” make it feel more like a wishful experiment than a return to normalcy. Predicting where this is all headed has proven a perhaps a fool’s errand, but disparate pictures of Park City’s summer are beginning to take shape.
Parkites and local businesses are taking small steps towards the status quo. The Red Banjo Pizza Parlor on Main Street has reopened for dine-in service. Customers can once again walk the aisles of Alpaca International. You can get a haircut again at several establishments. The Community Dashboard is regularly updated so you can see which businesses are offering which services at a given time. These are the markers of a cautious optimism beginning to permeate the community, but other developments blunt the good feelings.
Deer Valley Resort and partners, including the State Room Presents and Mountain Town Music, recently announced all summer concerts set to take place at the Snow Park Amphitheater have been canceled until 2021. Park City Institute also this week announced the cancellation of the Big Stars, Bright Nights summer concert series at the Eccles Center. The Park Silly Sunday Market and Tour of Utah had already been canceled for this summer. County Council Members and Health Officials have made clear they don’t expect gatherings of more than 50 people to be allowed in Summit County until well into 2021. Resorts are still mum on the status of summer operations, and everyone is quietly terrified about what this could mean come ski season.
The difficult reality facing Park City isn’t an either/or situation where things are completely normal or locked down. Recovery will come in fits and starts, with restrictions ramping up and easing as virus cases do. Summit County has posted helpful guides to aid people in understanding what current circumstances stipulate we need to do. The moderate risk guidelines currently in place in Summit County dictate that most business may open on a limited basis, but that social distancing, teleworking and wearing face coverings in public are recommended. It’s an admittedly confusing situation resulting in a bull market for cognitive dissonance.
Long-term prospects remain bleak. City Hall is forecasting Park City will collect only 36% of the typical sales tax revenue in July, and the town isn’t expected to top 50% of normal until September. Initial hopes the downturn would be confined to spring have been dashed, and the town is facing an uphill battle of attrition toward normalcy with June 2021 being first expected month approaching typical revenue numbers.
The loudest voices—at least in many corners of the internet—continue to be those decrying the collective measures taken to mitigate the spread of coronavirus as unlawfully draconian. While the collateral effects have been economically devastating and are rife with unintended consequences that should be noted and addressed, dismissing the potential deaths of hundreds of thousands of people as inevitable or not worth the inconvenience is, frankly, a bridge too far.
Park City is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s likely fleeting. The best we can do right now is embrace the uncertainty, support local businesses when possible and enjoy little pieces of normalcy whenever appropriate.