OR - Tourist towns balance fear, survival in make-or-break summer

As the coronavirus raced across America, this quaint seaside town did what would normally be unthinkable for a tourist destination.

Spooked by a deluge of visitors, the tiny Oregon community shooed people from its expansive beaches and shut down hundreds of hotels and vacation rentals overnight. Signs went up announcing that the vacation getaway 80 miles (129 kilometers) from Portland known for towering coastal rock formations was closed to tourists — no exceptions.

"It was unprecedented," said Patrick Nofield, whose hospitality company Escape Lodging owns four hotels in Cannon Beach and abruptly laid off more than 400 employees in March. "We really went into survival mode."

Now, with summer looming and coronavirus restrictions lifting, the choices facing Cannon Beach are emblematic of those confronting thousands of other small, tourist-dependent towns nationwide that are struggling to balance their residents' fears of contagion with economic survival. It's a make-or-break summer in these vacation spots — and the future is still terrifyingly unclear.

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