ANGOLA — Tourism agencies spend a lot of time trying to get free publicity, especially with national news outlets.

Some places will never be on the radar of national news and entertainment sources, no matter how hard they work at it.

Steuben County has been lucky over the years and this past weekend received a double dose of national publicity, some good and some not so good.

Perhaps most visible were references to spots on “Lake James, Indiana” that weren’t adhering to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic in a segment that aired on Good Morning America.

The ABC program showed a couple spots on the lake, the Main Beach at Pokagon State Park and the sandbar on the first basin of Lake James in a story about how younger people weren’t necessarily following guidelines of health officials, thus leading to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases.

“While perceived negative publicity is never desirable, it was a brief story and numerous other states were mentioned more prominently, along with photographs,” said June Julien, executive director of the Steuben County Tourism Bureau.

On the other side of the coin was an Instagram social media post featuring Steuben County, the Fourth of July and the fireworks show at Lake James, using a photo from a previous year’s show by Angola photographer Bill Eyster of Eyster Photo and Graphics.

“We are pleased,” Julien said, “that on July 4, Woman’s Day magazine utilized our Instagram photo on their page and tagged #steubencountytourism. This publicity is also national and will certainly be more enduring.”

So far, it would appear as though visitors are not bringing COVID-19 spikes to Steuben County this summer. However, COVID-19 cases are registered with the home county of the patient, so numerous people could be getting exposed at tourism hotspots like the sandbar then take it back home with them where their numbers would be counted.

Steuben County Health Department Chief Environmental Health Specialist Alicia van Ee said a recent spike in Allen County COVID-19 cases could have been from visitor exposure in Steuben County, though without knowing where the people had contacted others and other private data, the Health Department will never know unless health officials in Allen County were to share information with their colleagues in Steuben County.

Julien said she thought various operators of visitor-related business were taking safety measures urged by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to heart when it comes to the pandemic.

“To my knowledge all Steuben County businesses and attractions are following the Governor’s backontrack.in.gov recommendations,” Julien said.

At places like public beaches and swimming areas, enforcing distancing is difficult if not impossible.

“Social distancing is a personal responsibility,” Julien said.

To see the Instagram post by Woman’s Day, visit https://bit.ly/2AzK8R8.

To see the story on ABC’s Good Morning America, visit https://abcn.ws/2VS6uEW.

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