RV park owner Andy Zipser: My park’s open, but campers are angry!

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By Andy Zipser
WALNUT HILLS CAMPGROUND AND RV PARK
STAUNTON, VIRGINIA

It has been three months, more or less, since the world got turned upside down, three months into which we’ve packed a lifetime of education about the human condition. Economic collapse, a resurgence of anger and anguish about systemic racism, threats of martial law — even the weather has conspired to shake up the status quo. When was the last June night in Virginia when we had to turn on the heat?

‘One would-be camper, on being told he’d have to wear a mask in our store, declared that he’d find somewhere else to take his business.’

Yet for all that, it’s the way people are responding to the pandemic that alarms me the most. Three months in, and the world seems divided between those who seem oblivious to its life-threatening potential and those who feel in mortal danger at every turn.

One would-be camper, on being told he’d have to wear a mask in our store, declared that he’d find somewhere else to take his business. All businesses in Virginia are under an executive order requiring face coverings, so either that camper was heading out of state or was counting on finding a campground where the staff would ignore his non-compliance, rather than possibly force a confrontation. I suspect it was the latter.

Indeed, time and again we have arrivals strolling in who act shocked — shocked! — when told they can’t come in without a face covering. Most readily relent, but not so with one of our more pugnacious monthly campers, who month after month ignores the bold MUST WEAR MASK sign on our door as she walks in to pay her electric bill — and, month after month, lectures our staff that they could take her payment in less time than it takes them to ask her to go back outside so they can take the payment through a side door.

At the other extreme there’s our gardener, an elderly woman whose aesthetic sensibilities and love for the soil are on abundant and flattering display at our campground. She works alone and in the early morning hours, before most people are stirring, and so would seem ideally placed to continue her beloved labors without fear or apprehension — and yet she hasn’t otherwise left her home in more than three months, avoiding starvation only through the kindness of church members who bring her food. “I just need to be still,” she responds to my telephoned entreaties that she get out and about.

Andy’s park

This dichotomy is evident on a national level, of course. Even as a massive Trump campaign rally is scheduled for Tulsa, the U.S. and Canada are extending to late July the ban on cross-border non-essential travel that was set to expire tomorrow. The Sunbelt states have been reopening at a steady clip in recent weeks, apparently without regard for what’s actually happening on the ground in terms of coronavirus spread — and, no surprise, those same states are now seeing an upswing in infections and deaths. Cognitive dissonance is rampant.

Public opinion, untethered to any consistent direction from the powers-that-be, consequently has been on a roller-coaster ride. Asked by Destination Analysts, a polling company used by the travel industry, about their expectations for the severity of the coronavirus situation in the next month, respondents thought it would get “worse” or “much worse” from early March to early April, got increasingly more optimistic through most of May—then went into a steep pessimistic decline in early June. “Expectations about the virus’ course have dampened and some travelers that thought they would take trips this year have walked that back for now,” the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) observed this past week.

‘The problem for campgrounds like ours is that we’re bursting at the seams. Every weekend has been like Memorial Day, with campers eager to get away from their domestic prisons.’

One of the key factors in that reversal, emphasized by USTA in bold face: Poor “pandemic etiquette” behavior by others, with 61% of American travelers saying such behavior would make a given destination less desirable. Which, among other things, brings us back to face masks. And more.

The problem for campgrounds like ours is that we’re bursting at the seams. Every weekend has been like Memorial Day, with campers eager to get away from their domestic prisons. Anecdotally, we’re seeing a huge surge in first-timers: people who just bought an RV, or are renting one, or have borrowed one from friends or family. Others are reporting a similar phenomenon: RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental company, reported a 650% increase in business in mid-May compared to last year. Publications of every sort, from local dailies to the Wall Street Journal, have reported on the allure of vacationing in a self-contained bubble that can travel throughout the country at a time of historically low gas prices.

AND WHEN THEY GET HERE, they want to be unfettered by the rules that have circumscribed their lives at home. They don’t want to be smothered by face coverings. They want the swimming pool to be open — even though day-time highs have only been in the 70s — and they don’t mind telling us that we need to give them what they want. They jostle each other in the store and passing each other, and see the apparent disregard their neighbors have for the rules we patiently spell out, and pretty soon it’s hard to remember that the country is still being stalked by a deadly disease.

Here in Virginia we’re still in “phase two,” with phase three — initially thought to be announced this past week — now on hold. Still, I expect the state will take that next step within the next week to 10 days — and when it does, I doubt we’ll be stepping with it. I’m pretty sure our swimming pool will remain closed for the year — and we’ll be happy to refer campers who want one to another local campground. I’m pretty sure we’ll continue to limit groups far below the 50 now allowed under phase two — and several hundred under phase three. We’re going to continue to insist on face coverings in our office and store.

We’ll continue to insist on good pandemic etiquette because the pandemic hasn’t gone away, regardless of what our governor might conclude. Unfortunately, we’ll have to do so without hiding behind his executive orders — which is ironic, given our distress two months ago when he abruptly banned short-term campground stays. He was wrong then, and in my view will be wrong now if he moves to phase three any time soon. But my sense is that we’re looking at many, many months before we get to anything that resembles “normal.”

Readers: Your comments are invited but if they are rude or in any way disrespectful of others we’ll delete them immediately. And if they are really mean-spirited we’ll ban the offender from ever commenting again. Be nice or don’t comment. Thank you.

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Ken
18 days ago

Matt Johnson seems to be following Dr. Trump (the genius who is smarter than anyone) rather that the world class experts who advise that masks indeed retard the spread of the corona virus. This is not a matter of belief or politics or even denial. It is medical science as stated by medical experts in this field. If you want to contract or spread the virus, continue to deny the science…I hope one of his loved ones does not die as a result of his election to deny the experts.

Matt Johnson
20 days ago

You do realize masks don’t work, unless it’s a properly fitting N95, and that only protects you about 75 to 80% from the virus. I worked with local government for over 30 years with blood borne pathogens and water and airborne diseases here’s a little insight that is readily available.
Because it’s not about facts, it’s about politics and control.

Simple mathematics tell us the more we test the more positive cases will show up, not necessarily in relation to hospitalization, which is the main factor number. But they don’t tell you that. Also the Wuhan virus molecule measures 60 to 128Nm its called a complex molecule. A N95 mask will allow approximately 20% of the Wuhan virus through. And that’s only if you pass a proper fit test. Paper surgical mask or cloth mask will allow approximately 90 to 100% of the Wuhan virus through. Again just looking at facts.

Matt Johnson
20 days ago
Reply to  Matt Johnson

And if masks worked, why haven’t we opened up the country and mandate masks? If social distance works, why do we have to wear masks? The answer is because it’s not about the Wuhan virus, it’s about politics.
When we had to assess the protection level you look at smallest possible molecule, entry paths and what the PPE capabilities are. There’s a reason the lab in Wuhan wore full hazmat suits with positive air flow anywhere around this virus.

Cody
23 days ago

We’ve been at an RV park in the Traverse City Mi area since June. The park here has postings for mask requirements everywhere and staff follows them and so do most guests. All Michigan businesses have the mask required postings but some enforce it, some don’t. That’s fine, we just patronize the businesses that do. I am not even that concerned about the masks anymore as much as I am about my space. So many folks will just walk right up and stand next to or start speaking to me very closely. It seems to always be folks that do not have a face covering. It’s so important to respect each other’s space right now and if I can’t maintain that distance then wearing a mask is a polite way of letting other’s know I respect their space.

David
25 days ago

I have been reading the comments and I just want to cry, so many wanting to do the right thing while a minority just don’t care. As a veteran with three Agent Orange service connected diseases (heart, lungs, diabetes), I am a prime candidate for the ventilator if I get this “flu”. Most all VA hospitals/health clinics are operating on very limited services.  Please, if you don’t “believe” in COVID19, just go boon-docking or something, and stay the heck away from people. 

Bob Weinfurt
1 month ago

If a campground has a rule that you must wear a mask, if you want to stay there you must do so. If not, you have the freedom to go elsewhere. Same thing with an office or store. We go there to be safe. Please don’t disrespect us.

Michael Lloyd
2 months ago

Very nice write up, thank you for doing what you can to help save others from their own ignorance. It’s good for the country to protect yourselves and your fellow countrymen from viral harm which makes you a patriot. You are, in effect, defending your country and its citizenry much more so than those running about with assault weapons playing vigilante wannabes. Again, thank you and know you are supported by the majority of patriots who don’t want to put themselves or their countrymen at risk, who don’t want their healthcare systems overwhelmed and healthcare providers exposed to illness or driven to depression, and want children protected even if steps to do so seem extreme in the short run. God bless you

Sharon B
2 months ago

Kick the ignorant dangerous idiots out of the campground who are not compliant wearing a mask. Maybe call the police with hopes they support masks….even they had a few idiots who do not comply. I have no patience for idiots who could be carrying this virus and spreading it around to innocent people. I say jail those potential murderers for not wearing a mask. These are such ignorant people it’s inconceivable. People seem to be becoming stupider. Wear your mask stupid or go to jail is what I say! See how that spoils your camping. So there!
I wish the news would show the worst of what this virus can do including lung transplants, brain issues, amputations of limb, liver failure, cardiac disease, kidney failure, and the goodies like that. Cytokine storm syndrome is a result from this virus that damages organs forever. It’s worse for older people. What is older? I don’t know. 50’s, 60’s, 70’s??

Bobby
2 months ago

I can’t wait for the stupid people who believe the virus is something that can’t happen to them – happen to them because they won’t wear masks or anything else. Some hospitals that are at capacity will be making triage decisions who lives or dies. May it be them who are in a hospital basement hallway, in a vent or maybe no vent available. Hours and hours will pass because no one is available to help you. Your money will not help you get better care because all the ICU are full. If I was a first responder or hospital worker and had to put up with these idiots, I would walk off the job. You say I owe you care when you are stupid, think again. Today hospitals say they will be making triage decisions in a day or so. Thining of the herd. Continue to follow the lead of the most inept leadership we have ever known. Things can only get better going over the cliff.

William Johnson
2 months ago

You can’t fix stupid!

Gail
2 months ago

. I appreciate you and whatever can be done to allow me to use my RV safely and keep the campgrounds in business. It is NOT the FLU. We have no immunity. Everyone will get it eventually. I personally would like to wait until we have some treatment plan. So I will be hand washing, distancing, and wearing a mask if inside or closer than 6 feet to protect my fellow man. It is not only respiratory but can cause heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, still births, dead bowel. If wearing a mask was going to hurt you, all the first line people would be sick or dead. Working in a hospital shows you the truth. Oh and thank those hospital people for being your family as they will be your family if you are lucky enough to get a hospital bed

Eileen
2 months ago

We understand your dilemma. Here in FL, we see the two opposing “forces”. The non-believers “it’s no worse than the flu”. No mask, no social distancing, no respect. Hey, I definitely don’t want Covid, but would I be careless around someone with the flu? No. Covid is serious, it is on the rise again, THANK YOU for caring for your guests. Wear a mask people or stay home where you can do as you please.

Kevin King
3 months ago

I would much rather have a campground require masks than what we have with a local campground that remained open during the state ordered shutdown. She defies authority and now she has publicly stated that anyone wearing a mask will have the sheriff’s office called on them since she considers this to be a robbery attempt. Our local people have voiced their displeasure with her threat and now she has been returning calls impersonating the Sheriff’s Office.
I’ll wear a mask to protect myself and those around me.

Mike
3 months ago

I understand why people can be peeved over being forced to wear a mask. There is lots of evidence that wearing face masks weakens our immune system (due to less oxygen and more CO2), making it MORE likely we’ll get the virus.
Here are the results of some actual oxygen and CO2 readings from mask wearers, showing the levels are unhealthy. https://www.infowars.com/ohio-rep-proves-face-masks-reduce-oxygen-to-unsafe-levels/
Constant adjustments also increase hand-to-face touching and most masks don’t fit properly or are not rated for the smallest virus particles.
Few talk about strengthening the immune system which is our main defense and already fights off hundreds of viruses/germs each day.
Being so important, each should do their own research and become their own expert. I’ve found that a simple One-a-Day vitamin for 50+ (they have men’s and women’s versions) provides more than the needed vitamins C, D and zinc needed to help defend against Covid (do your own research).

Mitzi Agnew Giles
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Mike, I’m a nurse, and I find it hard to believe that since we stopped believing in demons causing illness that staff putting on isolation gear before entering a contagious patient’s room are weakening their own immune systems. Too many people in my profession have died from cases caused by people who didn’t believe they were infecting others. I wear a mask to protect others and myself. If you don’t want to wear a mask to protect yourself, please wear it to protect me.
.

Erinn
1 month ago

I’m with Mitzi & Pat – STOP spreading misinformation! If YOU don’t care about your own health, please care about the health of the rest of us, and wear a mask!!

Just watching evening news w/David Muir a few nights ago, there was a physician on, discussing masks. He measured his oxygen level without a mask (it was at 98%). He then placed FIVE masks over his face, one at a time & then measured his oxygen level again – guess what?! NO CHANGE, it was still at 98%

Pat OConnor
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Mike, a rep in Ohio legislature, who also happens to be an ER physician has stated that in his professional opinion, the reason the virus has spread and is more severely affecting communities of color is that people of color do not wash their hands enough or correctly.

If I lived in Ohio, which appears to be the home of some very ignorant people, I would have to seriously consider packing up and leaving. So, you can do your own research, but unless you are trained and experienced in handling infectious diseases, please don’t spread misinformation presented as facts.

Thanks

Ronald Catchpole
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike
Debbie
3 months ago

I work in a campground office and when all this first started, before the masks were even something that were being considered for anyone other than healthcare workers, I politely asked a resident who came into the office to please stand back 6 feet from the counter. He aggressively took two steps forward and gave me a glare. I asked him again and he took another two steps toward the counter. I asked him a third time to please step back 6 feet and he started screaming at me about how it’s all a hoax and a lie, that he didn’t have to give me 6 feet if he didn’t want to. I responded that the governor that very day had requested social distancing and 6 feet. Good thing boss and hubby were in the office. It resulted in a screaming match and the guy huffily left. Thank goodness he is gone now from the campground now. I felt truly threatened by him. SO many in this area believe like him and very, very few wear masks. We are in a small rural county that does not require them.

Mitzi Agnew Giles
2 months ago
Reply to  Debbie

I’m sorry you had to go thru that. He probably came from my state.

Carolyn
3 months ago

I wear a mask. Not for me but for those around me. To me it is just a sign of respect. Sadly missing in today’s society.

Pancho
3 months ago

That’s called muddying the waters. No value to your message.

LauraC
3 months ago

If this RV park owner really had the good of the public at heart, not saying that’s his responsibility, he’d not allow campers at all. Apparently making money while griping about the people giving it to him is more satisfying. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, do what’s best for you, but judging everyone around you by your own standards is like judging actions way back in history by today’s standards. It’s somehow self serving and repugnant. Can’t we just all be nice to each other? If you’re that afraid of other people, don’t go around them. Use your best judgement, but judge not lest ye be judged. Get a grip, everybody and calm down.

Kevin King
3 months ago
Reply to  LauraC

Unfortunately if campgrounds close and turn people away it will continue have a huge impact on Full Timers. I read that when all this started back in March many snow birds and Full Timers were sent out on the road as campgrounds closed with no where to stay.
There is no easy or foolproof solution for the unprecedented situation that we are in now.

Erinn
1 month ago
Reply to  LauraC

LauraC – You state “judge not lest ye be judged” but YOU judge the RV park owner, in your very first sentence!

If I was in my own RV, in an RV park, I would feel pretty safe. We can go outside/enjoy the great outdoors sitting under our OWN canopy, respect social distancing (& wear a mask as well!) when walking our dogs, etc.

You also state “judging everyone around you by your own standards is like judging actions way back in history” blah, blah…. HOW is he judging anyone?? In my state of Oregon, we are REQUIRED to wear a mask, anywhere & everywhere, as it should be.

You speak of being “self serving and repugnant” – Perhaps it is YOU who needs to “GET A GRIP AND CALM DOWN!!”

www.livingboondockingmexico.blogspot.com
3 months ago

“If you think wearing a mask is a huge inconvenience, just wait until you have to use a ventilator”.

I’ve lost a good friend (retired teacher), my dentist, a friend’s son was hospitalized for 4 weeks and 10 of his coworkers died from COVID.

I’m 63 and recently retired. I’d prefer to follow the rules than take any chances so that I can hopefully enjoy the next 20 years or more rving.

If you believe it’s all a hoax or it can’t happen to you, watch a video of an elderly person on a ventilator who most likely will not survive. Then come back and tell me it’s not real.

Steve Baker
3 months ago

I believe much, but not all, of the new cases being reported, are due to the mushrooming availability of COVID testing. Early in the pandemic, test kits were prioritized for first responders, frontline healthcare workers and people admitted to the hospital with COVID-like symptoms. We were not doing widespread “community surveillance” since there weren’t enough kits for that.

Now we have the kits to do this and we’re discovering there’s a bunch of folks that are asymptomatic or that barely feel sick. This “hidden positive” group has always been out there per Dr. Birx, we just weren’t able to see them early on.

Personally, I monitor the COVID hospitalization rate as it’s relatively unaffected by the surge in test kits. If it starts climbing, THAT signals a real growth in overall cases that is NOT attributable to increased testing availability.

Cheryl Bacon
3 months ago

If you read the previous articles, you would know he applied but he was still waiting for approval. Getting any of that money was not an easy task for a small business, just as it is hard as nails and very frustrating to get any government assistance during a natural disaster.