Welcome To Beautiful Lake Tahoe...Now, Get Out!!! Wait, Come Back.
Ever wonder what it’s like to live and breathe in a tourist community? People sarcastically say, “Living the dream”, and often refer to the “mountain tax” or “poverty with a view”. Your livelihood, as well as most of those around you, depends upon an influx of money from visitors outside of your community. Our community is used to an ebb and flow of tourism revenue. Many residents have learned the hard way about shoulder seasons, as well as drought years. So, what do you do when there’s a global pandemic that recommends people to shelter in place? What do you do if those people are not to venture more than a 10 mile radius from their home? Well, that’s the predicament that Lake Tahoe has had to address with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some may say it’ll lead to the death of our beloved mountain community. Others will argue that it was the only means to protect our precious and finite resources. How will Lake Tahoe weather this latest storm?
Sorry Folks, The Mountains Are Closed!!!
Remember that infamous scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation? you know the one. It’s when the fictional family, The Griswolds, ran across the parking lot towards the entrance of Walley World. The Chariots Of Fire song echoing their long race across country with the finish line now in sight. They arrived only to be greeted by Marty Moose informing them that the park was closed. Well, that’s about as close to what happened with our resorts around Lake Tahoe on March 14th, as I can relate.
We had guests lined up for the next month, waiting to ride some of our best snowfall of the entire season. Yet, our resorts told them to go home. Nobody knew exactly how long we were going to be shuttered, or just how much of an impact COVID-19 would have on our community. But, that was the first sign of the craziness to come.
Well, that's one way to put a season on hold
Many guests heeded those warnings, yet others refused to accept that the warnings were directed at them. Many locals took to their backcountry setups and sought out fresh lines in the new snow blanketing the resorts, as well as some of the usual backcountry zones. Others took to more conservative choices on snowshoes or cross-country tours around their neighborhood.
We were all waiting out the storm, as usual. But, this was no usual storm. This was a storm of epic proportions that would affect the lives of all of us. This would be a cataclysmic political, biological, and socio-economical storm that would land forever in the history books.
When The Devil And God Agree...
Casinos all across Nevada closed their doors, due to COVID-19.
How many times have you seen sinners and saints agree? It’s definitely not something that you see every day. Yet, when the casinos, as well as the churches, decided to shutter their doors and turn away their faithful patrons, then we realized the true gravity of the situation.
COVID-19 was forging a bond among those that could be affected. Multiple countries, cultures, and communities were rallying together to prevent the spread of COVID-19. How many times have we seen people divided during crisis? Now, people from all walks of life were seeing the danger in the same light.
This alone stirred the notion that we were facing an outbreak of potentially biblical proportions. So, how would our community react? Would we embrace our “locals”, “residents”, neighbors, community, and even our second homeowners? Well, that question would quickly be answered.
Division was formed. Outside visitors were called out for using AirBnBs or even their second homes. Gestapo tactics began. Fines were implemented for non-essential travel, as well as for entering closed areas around our community. And, social media shaming was well underway.
The USFS closed the beaches and bike paths with fines up to $5000/individual or $10,000/groups.
So much for angels and devils walking side by side. It was good while it lasted. The daily briefings from Washington, Sacramento, Carson City, and all across the world did little to bridge the gap that was growing across the community.
We saw paddleboarders chased by boats for disregarding SIP in Malibu. We saw armed gunmen storm the Michigan legislature. And, we saw divisions between those crying for freedom and those hoping for a safe resolution to the COVID-19 outbreak.
So, what would our community look like, as we were approaching our next tourist season? Even with supplemental assistance from the CARES Act, many people were struggling to make ends meet. Many people were seeing their way of life disappearing with newly instated mandates restricting their business from normal operating protocol. These new regulations were hoping to slow the spread of COVID-19 across our community. But, at what cost?
On Our Way To Reopening And Business As Usual
The new normal?
We can all agree that “business as usual” is going to be a long time coming. Some businesses, like Lakeside Inn & Casino, have already thrown in the towel. Many more are hanging on by a thread. Some businesses have worked hard to provide for the employees, even though it was a financial strain on the owners. Other businesses were deemed “essential”, which is really an awkward term. After all, aren’t most businesses essential? Maybe there should be a better term? Aren’t most businesses essential to the well-being of their employees and their families?
Somebody needs to stock the shelves. Somebody needs to deliver goods. Somebody needs to tend to the sick. And, somebody needs to keep the world up and running, even though we all should have just been sheltered for a brief time. Many fought to say that their business is essential. Many businesses just continued as they pleased.
This is before the crowds descend upon Lake Tahoe. What will it look like after?
So, here we are. More than two months of social distancing, sheltering in place, and arguing about our freedoms versus responsibilities. Are we ready to get back to business as usual? Looks like we’ll get to discover just how prepared, how much is a hoax, or how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good of society.
Welcome The (M)Asses, Sometimes The M Is Silent
Even with a giant CLOSED sign, people had little regard for any recommendations
The city council voted to cancel all big events until July 14th. The city also decided to cancel the 4th of July fireworks, which draws visitors from far and wide. Yet, our community is deciding to open, as well as 7 other counties across Northern California.
We've seen the numbers associated with COVID-19 globally. The CDC and World Health Organization have reported that the fatality rates are 3.4% overall and less than 1% in certain age groups (Data as of 3/31/2020). These numbers seem benign, compared to what could potentially happen.
As of today (5/14/2020), El Dorado County has yet to see a fatality associated with COVID-19. There have been 60 confirmed cases. Of those 60 cases, 20 have been in the Lake Tahoe area. Yet, who really knows the exact number? Many residents don’t have adequate health coverage. And, many more would refuse to get tested for fear of actually being infected by the government. We live alongside an abundance of anti-vaxers and conspiracy theorists that have little faith in our government. All of this has only made matters more difficult to manage, especially in the midst of a COVID-19 global pandemic. But, people are adamant about opening their businesses to avoid an almost certain demise from financial ruin or possible starvation.
We’ve seen the draw that Lake Tahoe and the surroundings have had upon people. Even in the midst of wild, winter, storms, people will disregard the dire warnings or even road closures to head to the mountains. So, who’s to say that a global pandemic will slow their migration? More importantly, how will the tourists react when so many locals have threatened to bite the very hand that feeds them?
This re-opening weekend will be a pretty good indicator of what this next wave will bring. Hopefully, it’s not a tidal wave of doom and gloom, which could wreak havoc on our small, community, hospital. Barton Memorial Hospital has historically had 8 ventilators available, as well as a very limited number of beds. The exact idea behind social distancing and closures has been to prevent a massive wave of patients draining our precious resources to “flatten the curve”.
Our community is accustomed to waves of patients, especially during the winter snow season and summertime fun on the lake. But, most of those patients are trauma patients and not those suffering from an infectious disease. Our hospital and urgent care clinics are used to broken bones, alcohol poisoning, altitude sickness, drowning victims, or even complications to pregnanies with elevation changes, etc., just to name a few. I know that our health professionals are hoping for the best, but fearful of the worst case scenarios.
Our community is about to face some potential growing pains. What will happen when our South Lake Tahoe community of 21,403 (2010 census) blossoms with the Summer crowds? We won't have many of the visitors coming for our 4th of July fireworks display, or many of our concert series. But, we will definitely have visitors escaping the heat to crowd the beaches all around Lake Tahoe. We'll also have our visitors packing the restaurants and putting a strain on new operating procedures. What about all the visitors that will be cruising the bike paths, hiking the trails, hitting the grocery stores, and shopping all around the lake. Looks like we’ll get to discover just how prepared, how much is a hoax, or how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good of society. Here's hoping that our community's need for financial health doesn't jeopardize our population's actual health. We can only hope that our visitors will come with an abundance of patience, respect, and the knowledge that we're all moving forward in uncharted territory together.
#Openforbusiness #Businessasusual #Freeforall #COVID19 #ElDoradoCounty #LakeTahoe #SurvivingAGlobalPandemic #Tahoestrong #PeaceLoveUnderstanding #WelcomeToTahoe #CaringForOurCommunity
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