OUTER BANKS, N.C. - Life is slowly returning to normal on the Outer Banks. This Monday, non-resident property owners can begin returning, and when visitors get the green-light, tourism officials want them to be prepared - things won't be the same.
"Things are going to be a lot different. It's gonna be... Kurt, it's gonna be downright weird, probably. We're gonna have a vacation destination with a lot of people walking around with masks on and practicing social distancing."
That's Lee Nettles, Executive Director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. He says to reinforce that message of how COVID-19 has changed life, a new campaign of being safe, smart and having fun is soon being launched by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.
"It's called the 'Summer of Glove.' It's kinda a play on 'Summer of Love,' and it tries to mix in those two issues: Tourism and safety. They both need to be a part of everybody's practice. And then the second part is a tourism pledge that our businesses are taking right now. And as they take that pledge, they're also offering up their specific steps they're going to take within their businesses to protect not only their employees but our visitors, our guests," Nettles explained.
But when will tourists be allowed back in? Dare County Manager Bobby Outten says no decision has been made.
"Our people are working on that, trying to come up with a plan come up with the appropriate timing," Outten said.
He is aware later this month there's an important deadline for the county's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.
"Our order expires on the 22nd, and so sometime between now and the 22nd, we've got to come up with a plan."
Outten says there are many things you have to consider.
"You look at all of the factors - the testing, all of those things you hear about. We rely on our health director, we rely on what the governor is telling us. We rely on what the Department of Health and Human Services is telling us. We look at our business community - we get input from the business community, from our citizens, and all that stuff goes into the calculus," he said.
Outten says they'll also be monitoring things as the non-resident property owners get phased in next week.
"Well, we're gonna look at... obviously you'll look at, 'Do you have more cases? Has it created any problems?' We're also going to be looking to hear what the governor has to say, because he's going to have to say something next week as well because his order expires on the 8th and we need to know what he's saying and how does that impact what we're thinking," Outten explained.
In the meantime, have the tourism officials been able to wrap their heads around how this has impacted their industry? Nettles says it's been devastating.
"The hospitality industry throughout our area, throughout the state, nationally has been wrecked with unemployment. So, we need to get those wheels turning again; we need to get the economy going - we need to get people back to work, but first and foremost, we gotta do so safely."
Hopefully that will happen during the "Summer of Glove."