M.C. NOW - Sara Rubin

A beach day may sound refreshing on Labor Day, but maybe not during a pandemic.

Good afternoon. 

I would say welcome to this holiday weekend, but given the active disasters that are still facing our community, it might not feel like much of a holiday. And while Monterey County relied heavily on tourism dollars, tourists are not quite welcome this Labor Day. 

With a heatwave in the forecast that coincides perfectly with the three-day weekend, it’s inevitable that people will flock to coastal communities seeking some relief from the heat. But if you’re planning a walk on the beach? Forget it—beaches are closed, the result of an unprecedented collaboration by local jurisdictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 and avoid a crowded bottleneck in one place. 

Want to go for a hike in Big Sur? Forget it—much of the wilderness, along with state parks, are closed as nearly 900 personnel battle the Dolan Fire. If you were thinking of a scenic drive along Highway 1, you can forget that too—the highway is closed. (And firefighters are serious about this closure—they’re contending with active falling burning material and using Highway 1 as a containment line to the west.) 

As if that weren’t enough, it’s intermittently smoky, depending on wind conditions, as fires in Big Sur and in the Santa Cruz Mountains keep burning. 

The indoor stuff visitors would’ve once done on a weekend—like go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, go out for a cocktail or a long, leisurely dinner, or go hear live music—all off the table. (Outdoor dining with spaced-out seating is allowed.) 

That there’s a tension between locals and tourists is nothing new. Crowds and traffic and litter and even human waste in more remote places (like Big Sur) are problems that have confounded our community for years. But everything, including that tension, feels heightened during a pandemic. 

Visitors bring money to spend (though there are now fewer places open for them to spend it), but they bring annoyances—and now they also bring the threat of a deadly virus. The Carmel Area Wastewater District is testing sewage for evidence of Covid-19, and found a spike after the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, leading them to suspect it was related to visitors. 

So if you are visiting our community this holiday weekend, welcome—sort of. Keep six feet of space between yourself and everyone else. Wear a face covering (it’s required). While we’re all just trying to survive, we all owe it to each other to follow the rules that are designed to keep us safe. 

-Sara Rubin, editor, sara@mcweekly.com

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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