Oakhurst businesses feeling hantavirus impact

September 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Yosemite National Park is still dealing with fears over a virus that's killed two people and sickened four others, and now some businesses in nearby Oakhurst may also be feeling the impact.

The Centers for Disease Control says as many as ten thousand people are at risk from the hantavirus after staying in the park this summer.

The virus is spread through contact with deer mice droppings and urine.

The park has closed 91 signature cabins tied to the outbreak, and some visitors have canceled their reservations.

Now businesses in Oakhurst say they're seeing fewer customers on this normally busy holiday weekend.

Every Labor Day weekend Oakhurst sees a lot of traffic as tourists make their final trip of the summer. However, this weekend some say things seems a little different.

"Normally you see a lot of traffic, a lot of boats going by in the area and I only saw a few going by yesterday, so it was kind of strange," Todd Leaf, owner of Todd's Cookhouse Barbecue, said.

Leaf has owned his barbeque restaurant just off Highway 41 for five years and counts on a steady stream of customers, especially during holiday weekends to boost sales.

He believes the recent hantavirus outbreak in Yosemite has had a slight impact on business.

"I wasn't thinking of that when I saw it was slower, but then as the day went on, I started putting two and two together that maybe it has a little effect on it," Leaf said.

Customers are still stopping into the restaurant, but Leaf estimates overall his profits are down about 20 percent compared to previous Labor Day weekends.

"I think as far as the other businesses go, I think they are probably like me. They are sort of noticing it, but the slower ones are probably really feeling it," Leaf said.

The Oakhurst Lodge is also noticing a slight decline in business.

"It's a little slower. We all want to be completely booked for every single of the month," Miguel Witrago said.

Witrago says some rooms are still empty, but he doesn't believe the hantavirus is having a major impact on business.

"We still got travelers coming up. This is our last month for our traveling season and thankfully some news travels slow, so I still see foot traffic coming through," Witrago said.

Local businesses say every dollar counts and they plan to make the most of this holiday weekend even with the virus concerns lingering.


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