Mayor of Tangier Island talks to News 3 about how the coronavirus is impacting his town

Posted at 12:19 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 19:23:48-04

TANGIER ISLAND, Va. - Everyone in our region is being impacted by the coronavirus, even those living in the some of the state's most remote areas.

News 3 interviewed Tangier Island Mayor James Eskridge over Zoom to learn what it has been like for the few hundred people on his island.

Tangier Island sits in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and is just an hour boat ride away from the mainland.

“It's quite a different lifestyle out here. I tell people, even though we’re not that far from the mainland or even major cities, we are a world apart from those places out here,” said Eskridge.

Erosion has been a constant problem for the town of just 427, according to Eskridge, who has lived there his whole life.

He said so far, the town has not had any reports of coronavirus, but it is a constant concern, especially for the elderly on the island that make up 41% of the population.

He said the town is also concerned about the spread of it through people who work on tugboats and travel to other, bigger cities in the U.S.

Many who live on the island make a living off commercial fishing and crabbing, and COVID-19 has impacted their sales.

“They’re able to keep crabbing and are able to sell their crabs, but the prices aren’t as good as they normally would be this time of year,” Eskridge said.

With COVID-19 forcing restaurants to shut down, he said the demand for crabs isn’t as high.

“I think right now they’re averaging about $25 a bushel for the female crabs. Normally this time of year, they would probably be like $50 or better,” Eskridge said.

But he said he is glad they are working at all.

“It has impacted the price, but I’m really happy with the way things are going, because in the beginning I wasn’t sure if guys were going to be able to move the product and sell the crabs,” Eskridge said.

The tourism industry will also take a hit this season due to COVID-19 and the traveling restrictions. Normally, the town has three tour boats that start to come in this time of year, but they aren’t running.

Normally, small planes touch down on the island, with the people on board stopping by to get lunch or go to the beach for the day. Eskridge said the airport is open, but the town has suggested that people not come unless it's necessary.

Despite gathering restrictions, the community has still found ways to come together. Many are religious on the island, and they gathered in golf carts on Easter, keeping their social distance and singing together at the airport.

“That was pretty awesome. We had a great turn out for that,” Eskridge said.

Right now, Eskridge said the town is staying positive and praying for a vaccine.

“I guess in times like this being isolated is good,” Eskridge said. “It’s wonderful being out on the water in the Chesapeake Bay, just a nice way of life.”

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