Stay Away! Local agencies make plea for visitors, 2nd homeowners to stay home | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Stay Away! Local agencies make plea for visitors, 2nd homeowners to stay home

Nevada Beach at Lake Tahoe.
Tribune file

Governors in two states issued directives for residents to stay at home.

The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority said stay away.

And what happens, people flocked to Lake Tahoe and to California beaches in record numbers.

Local agencies this week are sending the same message and are urging tourists and second homeowners to stay away from Lake Tahoe even though short-term/vacation home rentals remain open.

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Incline Village General Improvement District issued a statement asking anyone considering visiting the Incline Village or Crystal Bay area to reschedule their visit.

“Our visitors are an important part of our community, but sadly, to protect our community and prevent a medical crisis, we’re respectfully asking travelers to please visit when this pandemic is over,” said Indra Winquest, Interim General Manager in the statement.

IVGID has taken several steps in preventing the spread of the virus such as closing the community facilities and ending the ski season early at Diamond Peak.

“We want visitors to know that they can help our community by temporarily staying away,” Winquest said. “The natural beauty and serenity of the Lake Tahoe Basin will be here to welcome you back again. Be hopeful, stay home, and stay healthy.”

Under Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s order, short-term rentals are deemed an essential business but many locals are concerned about the drain on limited resources from visitors.

One Incline Village resident, Jack Dalton, was a doctor in New York before moving to the basin. He’s concerned about the amount of space and equipment available at the local hospitals.

“Around the basin, we don’t have the ventilators or beds available,” Dalton said.

Incline Village and Crystal Bay residents sent the Washoe County Commission, urging them to temporarily stop STRs to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in what they said is a, “vulnerable community with so many senior citizens, one small clinic and two grocery stores.”

The commission’s next meeting in March 31 but STRs are not on the agenda.

The City of South Lake Tahoe made a similar plea.

They sent the following statement to vacation homeowners:

“As you are probably aware, Gov. Newsom issued a state-wide Stay at Home Order on March 19, which bans all non-essential travel. Over the weekend, the city received many reports of out of town visitors staying at VHRs, hotels, and motels. The City of South Lake Tahoe is asking our Vacation Home Rental permittees, hotels, and motels to cease renting to non-exempt short-term visitors until at least April 23 (30 days). The city is also asking you to be flexible with your current reservation holders and allow them to re- schedule or be reimbursed for canceled trips. The COVID-19 public health emergency requires everyone’s cooperation. The city is asking you to work with us in partnership to keep our community safe.”

Residents were furious after vacation-home rentals seemed full last weekend.

“This weekend (March 21-22) I was horrified to see the tourists and second homeowners fill up the vacation rentals on my street and in my neighborhood,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Cathy Sharp in a letter to the editor. “They came to walk around our neighborhoods, play in the snow, strip the shelves in our uncrowded grocery stores, spread their germs and then go back to the Bay Area … to return whenever they want.”

Following the busy weekend, the city scheduled an emergency council meeting to discuss a temporary cease on VHRs. The city got clarification on the county’s stay-at-home order that said VHRs are only supposed to be used for homeless housing, COVID-19 mitigation, housing for essential workers or long-term housing.

The council decided not to pass their own order but rather to defer to the county and pass an order allowing for fines up to $1,000 for both homeowners and occupants for violating the order.

One member of the public who owns a second home in South Lake, sent a comment to the council stating they were sheltering in place in their own home (although not their primary residence) and came to their home before the statewide lockdown and said they’ve been shunned by their neighbors for doing so.

Councilmember Devin Middlebrook said later in the meeting that he knows they can’t tell people not to use their own property, he’d like the city to highly discourage it.

While this conversation was centered on vacation home rentals, residents were also concerned about resorts, especially Lake Tahoe Vacation Resorts owned by Diamond Resorts, which was also busy over the weekend. While they had closed other resorts around the country, they had not yet closed the California resorts.

A spokesperson from Diamond Resorts said on Thurs., “Lake Tahoe Vacation Resorts is closing and complying with the recent county mandate.”

With both Incline Village and South Lake Tahoe having smaller hospitals, more people in the community could put a burden on the healthcare facilities.

“Shelter in Place measures ensure appropriate resources are available in the community, as well as prevent essential members of the workforce from being exposed to COVID-19. Those visiting from out of the area can further the virus’ spread and put local resources, including healthcare delivery, at risk,” Barton CEO Clint Purvance said in a statement to the Tribune.

“That is why we are asking those outside our community to not visit at this time. Stay home and stay safe, and we look forward to welcoming visitors after the Shelter in Place has lifted.”

Exercise has been encouraged during time to help people to stay physically and mentally healthy and that’s led to visitors flocking to Tahoe’s trails. Many of Tahoe’s trailheads were packed with cars over the weekend.

“The Governor’s order says for people to exercise near their homes so unless all those people suddenly moved near the trailhead, I don’t think they’re following the order,” said the League to Save Lake Tahoe Chief Strategy Officer Jesse Patterson.

El Dorado County Public Health issued a clarification of the state’s “Stay At Home” directive late Tuesday night as it relates to STRs/VHRs due to the horde of weekend visitors.

“Despite the governor’s order to stay home except when necessary and our continued plea to recreate at home, many residents have flocked to Lake Tahoe and other tourist destinations for nothing more than a change of scenery, allowing for a possible increase in the spread of COVID-19,” county health officer Dr. Nancy Williams said in a press release.

California State Parks are taking steps to limit the number of people enjoying one place at one time.

“Many state parks and beaches received record visitation over the weekend which made it impossible for the public to implement appropriate social distancing practices,” a press release for Calif. State Parks said. “As a result, the department is working closely with local county and public health officials to modify park operations by closing vehicular traffic at some park units to reduce the density of visitors.”

They’ve reinforced the need for people to exercise and recreate in their own neighborhoods and will continue to monitor parks and possibly implement more closures.

To see a complete list of park closures, visit http://www.parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve.


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