Tourists stay, play in Lake Tahoe while residents self isolate (Guest opinion)
Many Incline Village residents are losing hope that state or county authorities will keep us safe from COVID-19.
Most of us have been dutifully self isolating for weeks, but because of both Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Emergency Resolution and Washoe County’s inaction, Incline is filled to capacity with tourists and others from out-of-state.
According to County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler, “Our DA has told us we have no authority to stop people from renting their property to others for whatever reason… Understand that we cannot stop Airbnb … There is much we can’t do, and we ask you all to shelter in place as the Governor of Nevada has requested.”
Incline’s 1,000 STRs are not only scattered throughout the residential areas of the village, there is currently no county oversight to identify or regulate them.
Now, with Truckee, Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe on California’s side halting STRs, and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s closing of vehicular traffic to all parks on that side of the lake, Incline has become the primary destination for tourists who want to come to Lake Tahoe.
After residents pleaded with Gov. Sisolak to retract his March 17 Emergency Resolution defining STRs as “essential businesses,” he allowed county commissioners to halt them at Lake Tahoe, but commissioners say they have no legal basis to do so.
We residents think that’s unconscionable. Even if they won’t legally mandate a halt, they could at least issue a statement saying STRs should “for the safety of the community” cease temporarily.
As it is, without any statement to the contrary, tourists assume staying in Incline STRs is perfectly okay.
Many if not most Incline permanent residents are in the “at risk” category for COVID-19, but the village has no medical facilities other than a small clinic with limited supplies.
The Washoe County Health District contends there are “no confirmed cases” in Incline Village, but residents think that’s not so. Several residents say they know of COVID-19 cases self-isolating in town.
Last week Airdna.co published a report headlined “Coronavirus Causes Boom for Rural Short-Term Rentals.”
An Incline realtor wrote to me, “I don’t want to go into details, but people are streaming here from all over, thinking, “Oh-h-h, it’s pristine Tahoe — better to be there.”
A New York Post headline March 28 announced “Coronavirus Cases Climb in Rural US Cities Popular With Tourists.”
According to the article, Blaine County near Sun Valley Ski Resort has 82 cases and two deaths. Summit County, home to Utah’s Sundance Film Festival, has 103 cases.
“Though rural, the areas are all affluent, mountain-ringed ski and hiking hamlets that see millions of visitors each year.” The article quotes Sheriff Justin Martinez. “This is not just a big city issue. It is happening everywhere around the world, including in smaller communities like Summit County.” And — without preemptive action — Incline Village.
Unfortunately, as an unincorporated community dependent on county health and safety services, there’s no way for Incline Village to protect itself from COVID-19.
Asking senior residents to shelter in place while tourists stay and play is a catastrophe in the making that no government official will want as a legacy.
Ronda Tycer, PhD, is co-chair of the Incline Village STR Advisory Group.
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