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Tourists feel safe driving to vacation in SWFL amid national uptick in COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus cases are growing fast all across the country. The U.S. reported more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row Thursday.

We’re learning more people are heading to Southwest Florida because they feel comfortable being outside in the region, and many of them are driving to get to the area.

We spoke to people who drove here from other states. Many people told us they felt more comfortable driving than flying.

What we heard from tourists is similar to what’s being captured by a new report from the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.

MORE: Lee County Tourism Outlook report

“We’re social creatures, and all we have to do is be safe,” said Deb Morton, who drove from North Carolina to visit a friend.

Lee county is finding there are many more traveling to the region. In fact, over half the tourists they talked with feel safe vacationing again and visiting the beach.

“Out on the beach, you know, people kind of go around you if you’re not wearing a mask and you’re sitting on the sand,” Morton said.

Despite the upward trend in cases nationwide, tourism is pick up in the area.

“We’ve been at every day almost 100% capacity,” said Daniel Clarkston at Sun Deck Inn & Suites on Fort Myers Beach. “We see a lot of people coming from especially like more northern Florida, Georgia, like the neighboring states.”

Lee County’s report shows tax revenue from tourism is still down. Capacity is also at about half right now and down about a quarter of what it was a year ago. But that’s changing at places such as Sun Deck Inn.

Clarkston told us he thinks more people are traveling to the area because of the weather and the safety precautions they have in place. Other businesses, such as the Lani Kai on Fort Myers Beach, told us they’re also seeing their rooms filling up.

Tourists here are also taking notice, saying Southwest Florida is a region where they don’t feel like they’re sacrificing safety to enjoy their time outside.

“It’s the best possible thing,” said Michelle Pilling from Edmonton, Alberta. “You can get in the water. You can get out. You can stay away from everybody, or you can be around people. You can just enjoy being outside.”

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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