Tag: Towns

COVID-19 exodus fills vacation towns with new medical pressures

By Markian Hawryluk, Katheryn Houghton and Michelle Andrews

The staff at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is accustomed to the number of patients tripling or even quadrupling each summer when wealthy Manhattanites flee the city for the Hamptons. But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended everything.

The 125-bed hospital on the southern coast of Long Island has seen a huge upswing in demand for obstetrics and delivery services. The pandemic has families who once planned to deliver babies in New York or other big cities migrating to the Hamptons for the near term.

From the shores of Long Island to the resorts of the Rocky Mountains, traditional vacation destinations have seen a major influx of affluent people relocating to wait out the pandemic. But now as summer vacation season has ended, many families realize that working from home and attending school online can be done anywhere they can tether to the internet, and those with means are increasingly waiting it out in the poshest destinations.

Many of the medical facilities in these getaway spots are used to seeing summer visitors for bug bites or tetanus shots, hiring an army of temporary doctors to get through the summer swells. Now they face the possibility of needing to treat much more serious medical conditions into the fall months — and for the foreseeable future.

Such increase in demand could strain or even overwhelm the more remote towns’ hospitals and health care providers, threatening the availability of timely care for both the newcomers and the locals. The Southampton hospital has just seven intensive care unit beds, with the capacity to expand to as many as 30, but it wouldn’t take much for the hospital to be swamped by patients.

“For health care, the bottom line is: As our population grows, we have to have the infrastructure to support it,” said Tamara Pogue, CEO of Peak Health Alliance, a nonprofit community health insurance-purchasing cooperative in Colorado ski country.

And many communities do not.

Home sales soar

Sunny shores and mountain vistas are prompting people to relocate to second homes if they have them, or to purchase new homes in those areas if they don’t. Renters who used to come for a month are now staying for two or three, and summer renters are becoming buyers. Multimillion-dollar residences in the ski resort town of Aspen, Colorado, for example, that once sat on the market for nearly a year now move in weeks.

“Some of the most experienced and seasoned real estate brokers have never seen activity like what we have experienced in July and August,” said Tim Estin, a broker in Aspen, whose firm draws clients from COVID hot spots such as Dallas, Houston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Many destinations tried to discourage second-home owners from coming, particularly early in the pandemic after Colorado ski resorts became an epicenter of COVID cases. Gunnison County, Colorado, home to the Crested Butte ski resort, banned out-of-towners, prompting the Texas attorney general to take up

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The Wealthy Flee Coronavirus. Vacation Towns Respond: Stay Away.

People with second homes in the Catskills region of New York are being warned to stay away in venom-laced Facebook posts and blunt messages from county officials.

Boardwalks and beaches in some Jersey Shore towns are barricaded and residents are urging the closure of coastal access bridges to outsiders.

In the Hamptons, the famous playground for the rich on the East End of Long Island, locals are angry that an onslaught of visitors has emptied out grocery store shelves.

This clash between year-round residents and those with the means to retreat to vacation homes intensified on Tuesday as White House officials advised anyone who had passed through or fled New York City to place themselves in a 14-day quarantine.

“They’re pumping gas. They’re stopping at grocery stores,” said Kim Langdon, 48, of Ashland, N.Y. “If they’re infected and they don’t know it, they’re putting everyone at risk.”

The expletive-filled commentary on a Catskills Facebook page was less subtle.

“The only cases in Greene County were brought here from downstate people so stay down there,” one man wrote. “Just because you have a second home up here doesn’t mean you have the right to put us at risk.”

Mayors, town supervisors and the governors of at least two states have warned part-time residents of tourist destinations to stay away.

“We don’t want your bugs,” said Linda Michel, 71, of Surf City, on Long Beach Island in New Jersey, about 100 miles south of Manhattan. Ms. Michel, who wore blue plastic gloves into a grocery store, said the bridge that connects Long Beach Island to the mainland should be closed to all except year-round residents who hold disaster re-entry passes.

“The problem with the island is you do not have the resources,” she said.

Across the country, similar tensions between locals and seasonal visitors are bubbling to the surface as efforts to confront the pandemic have led the nation to navigate uncharted territory.

The governor of Florida has ordered anyone who traveled from the New York region in the last three weeks to remain under quarantine for 14 days. Officials in vacation hubs on North Carolina’s Outer Banks have barred nonresidents as cases of the highly contagious virus creep south along the East Coast.

In New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy made an unequivocal plea for those with shore houses to stay away.

“We all love the summer people,” said Joseph Mancini, the mayor of Long Beach Township, N.J. “They drive our economy. But when they come down here now, the services here aren’t geared up for them.”

He estimated that

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Tahoe towns ask vacation homes to stop rentals amid coronavirus outbreak

South Lake Tahoe city officials sent a message on Monday to all vacation homeowners, short term rental property owners, hotels and motels to stop rentals immediately amid the coronavirus outbreak. The city is requesting rentals stop until at least April 23. The immediate request for all vacation homeowners to stop rentals comes after the city saw thousands of visitors last weekend despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mandatory order to stay at home order.Mayor Jason Collin said visitors are traveling for non-essential needs, and could be held accountable for a misdemeanor charge.“We are very kindly asking people to not to come to Tahoe. We love our visitors, we just don’t want you here right now,” Collin said. City officials are concerned about visitors coming into town given their limited health care resources. Barton Memorial Hospital is the only hospital for the city. The hospital has nine ICU beds, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Collin said the hospital has fewer than 10 ventilators. The hospital services up to 35,000 residents in the city and county alone, Collin said. “That’s not enough. That’s not enough for 30,000 people,” resident Shira Martorana said. Barton Health said it is working with other local hospitals to share resources in preparation for a potential influx of patients. In the meantime, residents like Martorana are applauding the city’s request to pause vacation rentals because she is especially prone to lung infections. “I survived swine flu in 2009, but I was sick for six weeks, in and out of the hospital three times. And so I have scar tissue in my lungs,” Martorana said. Kathy Liebhardt, owner of Tahoe Destination Vacation Rentals, agrees with the city’s decision to pause rentals to vacationers, but she is concerned about the timeline since city officials are asking all current renters to leave now. “I’m going to disagree with that. I have a family in from Australia. Where are they supposed to go? I can’t tell them just to leave,” Liebhardt said. “I have a family in from Germany, same situation. Am I supposed to just kick them out? Where are they supposed to go?”Liebhardt is letting her current renters stay put since their flights have been canceled, she is transforming her vacation properties from places of leisure into places of business moving forward.“If we have nurses that are needed up in Tahoe, I will put them up for housing. That’s the important point to push. I am not allowing vacationers to come up just because they need to come up,” Liebhardt said. The request from South Lake Tahoe is just that: A request, not a legal order. The mayor said enforcement of the request will be discussed at an emergency city council meeting on Wednesday. The mayor also added that while the request was sent to rental property permit holders, the same message applies to homeowners that have a second home in Tahoe, which is to stay home.City officials in Truckee posted a similar request on Facebook on Tuesday, saying, “Now is not …

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Coronavirus Will Hit Small Towns Hard As People Leave Cities


Idaho Highway 75 outside of Sun Valley, Idaho.

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“Wealth is the vector.” That’s what sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom tweeted last week, in reference to the spread of COVID-19 across both the globe and the United States. Wealth is not the cause of every concentrated outbreak dotting the United States. But it’s the common denominator of so much of its spread outside of major urban areas. It’s the reason why so many of the coronavirus hot spots in the Mountain West — Sun Valley, Idaho; Gunnison County, Colorado; Summit County, Utah; Gallatin County, Montana — overlap with winter playgrounds for the wealthy. The virus travels via people, and the people who travel the most, both domestically and internationally, are rich people.

A party in the tony bedroom community of Westport, Connecticut, all the way back on March 5, became what one epidemiologist referred to as a “super-spreading event,” with infected attendees dispersing throughout Connecticut and New England, and one party-goer falling ill on a plane ride back to South Africa. In Idaho’s Blaine County, home to Sun Valley, more than half of the residential properties are second homes or rental properties, and more than 30,000 people fly into the regional airport during ski season alone. As of March 31, 187 people in the county of 22,000 have tested positive, including local emergency room physician Brent Russell. Two people have died. The town’s small hospital has two ICU beds and a single ventilator.

“People come here from all over the world,” Russell told the Idaho Statesman. “Especially this time of year. When I’m in the ER, I get people from New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Seattle. Every week there’s people from those places. Most likely someone from an urban area or multiple people from urban areas came here and they just set it off.”

All over the United States, people are fleeing urban areas with high infection rates for the perceived safety and natural beauty of rural areas. Some of them own second homes in those areas; others are paying upwards of $10,000 a month, depending on the area, for temporary housing. The common denominator among those populations is, again, wealth — either their own or their families’. They can flee the city because their jobs can be done remotely, or they don’t work at all. They either had a vacation house already, or they can afford to fork over what amounts to a second rent, or second mortgage.

Not everyone leaving a big city because of the pandemic is heading for a vacation home; many people with mobile jobs are relocating to stay with family in suburban and rural hometowns. And many of the rural places that will eventually be hardest hit by the coronavirus are not upscale ski and beach towns, but small and

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